Tags: Barack Obama | guantanamo | prison | close | congress

Rep. Peter King: Obama Move on Gitmo Will Bring 'Confrontation'

By    |   Friday, 10 October 2014 07:57 PM

If President Barack Obama closed the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, "it would be a direct confrontation with Congress," Rep. Peter King told Newsmax on Friday.

"It would be a lawless act, and it would be an act that would poison relations between Congress and the president," the New York Republican said. "I can see very severe action taken by Congress to counter that."

King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, was among many Republicans who slammed the administration over news reports that Obama might close Guantanamo and transfer its detainees to U.S. prisons without congressional approval.

A senior White House official told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that Obama remained "unwavering in his commitment" to closing Guantanamo.

In 2009, the president pledged to close the prison and said last year that keeping Guantanamo open "makes no sense."

Located on a Navy base on the eastern end of Cuba, Guantanamo Bay currently has 149 terrorism detainees — and 86 of them have been approved to be transferred out.

The last set of transfers occurred in September 2013 — and an office of the State Department tasked with finding countries that would take the others was closed by the administration in January.

Among the terrorists being held there are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed organizer of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington; accused co-conspirators Walid bin Attash and Ramzi Bin al-Shahb; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is charged with leading the plot to bomb the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors in 2000.

Republicans have battled Obama on closing Gitmo since he signed an order in January 2009 to suspend proceedings there and shut it down later that year. A military judge rejected Obama's move a week later in the case of al-Nashiri — and in May of that year, the Senate blocked funds for transferring or releasing detainees.

In December 2009, Obama ordered that the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois be readied to accept Guantanamo prisoners, but none have been sent there. More than a year later, in February 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Guantanamo was unlikely to be closed because of strong congressional opposition.

In June, however, President Obama faced intense attacks from both parties after announcing that he had authorized the release of five top Taliban detainees from Guantanamo in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held in captivity for five years.

The president had made the move without informing Congress, as required by law.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said on Friday that the White House did not know "what new press reports are referring to when they say the administration is 'drafting options' intended to 'override a congressional ban'" regarding Guantanamo.

"It remains true that we continue to object to congressional restrictions, as we've said many times," she said in a statement.

"To the greatest extent possible and consistent with our national security interests, detainees will be repatriated or resettled, or prosecuted in federal courts or military commission proceedings."

King, a member of the House since 1993, characterized the administration's response to Newsmax as a "half-denial, which makes me more concerned that it might be true."

He said that if only President Obama could show as much fervor about battling the Islamic State (ISIS) — whose terrorists have beheaded four Westerners in recent months and captured the headquarters Kurdish fighters defending the Syrian border town of Kobani on Friday — as he is about closing Gitmo.

"He certainly seems very passionate about closing Guantanamo, but he's not passionate about fighting terrorists," King said. "He is passionate about letting them out of Guantanamo.

"He seems to be almost obsessed with closing Gitmo. At a time when we should be mobilizing the country and the world to be fighting Islamic terrorism and fighting ISIS, he's talking about releasing the al-Qaida persons that we do have, the detainees that we do have.

"It seems that no matter what he keeps coming back to Gitmo — whether it's releasing them, whether it's trying them in New York City, whether it's tempting to close down Gitmo," King said. "The effort that goes into this just doesn't add up.

"This is as close to a constitutional crisis that you'll see."

Other Republicans were just as adamant about battling Obama on any Guantanamo unilateral move.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts threatened on Friday to shut down the Senate if Obama tried to close Guantanamo via executive action.

"I stopped him once from trying to send a Gitmo terrorist to Leavenworth," Roberts told supporters, according to Roll Call. "I shall do it again. I shall do it again — and if he tries it, I will shut down the Senate."

Roberts is in a fierce re-election battle against independent Greg Orman.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe charged to Newsmax that "President Obama's desire to fulfill his campaign promise of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is exceeded only by his willingness to bypass Congress and ignore the law in order to accomplish it.

"The American public and their members of Congress have consistently opposed transferring terrorist detainees to U.S. soil — and any move to do so now through unilateral, executive action will be met with strong resistance in the Senate.

"With the threat of terrorism on the rise, the president should be focusing on strengthening U.S. national security, but instead he is attempting to check boxes before the midterm elections."

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he would oppose any unilateral action by Obama and that the detainees should have been charged and prosecuted years ago.

"It's a huge mistake not to have adjudicated the process, and if they deserved punishment, given them punishment," he told Wolf Blitzer on CNN. "Most of the people who remain in Guantanamo Bay are a danger to the country.

"We should have some sort of justice — and it can be military — but it needs to be done and they need to be given finality instead of having them there without any decision making on how long they're going to be there."

Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine called any executive move by Obama on shuttering the prison "irresponsible."

"The president would put a giant bulls-eye on any federal prison forced to hold detainees," Bridenstine said. "We have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen that Islamist terrorists will target detention facilities holding their brethren."

House Speaker John Boehner warned that Obama would be making a "dangerous" mistake to shift the detainees to prisons in the United States.

"An overwhelming majority of the American people and bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate oppose importing the terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay into the United States, yet the White House continues to move forward with its plan," the Ohio Republican said.

"Even as Islamic jihadists are beheading Americans, the White House is so eager to bring these terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the United States that it is examining ways to thwart Congress and unilaterally rewrite the law," he said.

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If President Barack Obama closed the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, "it would be a direct confrontation with Congress," Rep. Peter King told Newsmax on Friday.
guantanamo, prison, close, congress
Friday, 10 October 2014 07:57 PM
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