Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressly told members of Congress Wednesday that President Obama would not be able to move prisoners currently housed at Guantanamo Bay to prisons on U.S. soil without first working with Congress to change existing law.
“Individuals are not able to be transferred from Guantanamo Bay to a facility on U.S. soil. That is prohibited by the NDAA, ” Lynch testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoing the same remarks she made last month before the House Appropriations Committee.
Lynch added that she “supports the administration’s policy” in seeking to close Gitmo, but said existing law under the National Defense Authorization Act prohibits those prisoners from being brought over to the United States.
“I believe the president’s policy indicates a desire to work with Congress to implement and necessary changes that would have to be taken before this action could be taken,” Lynch added, saying she’s “certain it is [Obama’s] intention” to follow the law.
Because that’s been his track record (immigration, anyone?).
Closing Gitmo remains one of the few major original campaign promises Obama has not yet accomplished in his two-term presidency by ramrodding changes down the American public’s throat via executive orders. But with only months remaining in his final year, the president earlier this year sent Congress an outline for closing the Cuban-based detention facility, including a plan to release about a third of its prisoners back into their home countries before bringing most of the remainder to the United States.
Via a February report from The Hill:
The Gitmo prison currently houses 91 detainees. Under Obama’s proposal, the administration would transfer 35 who are deemed to pose a lower security risk back to their home countries or third countries over the next few months.
Another 10 are being tried by military commissions. Many of the remaining 46 detainees would be kept in a new facility on U.S. soil, designed to hold between 30 and 60 prisoners.
In fact, the president's order for the closure of Gitmo as published on the White House's website explicitly states:
The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order. If any individuals covered by this order remain in detention at Guantánamo at the time of closure of those detention facilities, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.