The clock is ticking on one of President Barack Obama’s major campaign promises: Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
And his promise might not be fulfilled before he leaves office because of an unlikely source: Ashton Carter, his defence secretary.
The Daily Beast reports that according to a White House source, Carter is unwilling to be responsible for the release of Guantanamo detainees and accountable for their conduct once they are released. His aversion to signing off on detainees’ transfers is so strong that he seems willing to ignore Obama’s preferred timeline.
The Obama administration wants to cut the number of remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay by almost half — and the only thing missing is Carter’s signature.
Last month, The New York Times reported that White
House national security adviser Susan Rice had presented Carter with a memo that said he would have one month to make decisions on transferring the prisoners away from Guantanamo.
The White House had also announced last month that it was in the final phase of putting together a plan that would allow them to close the prison. Three weeks later, it has yet to release a detailed plan.
The prison has been the source of many controversies since its establishment during the administration of former President George W. Bush. More than 100 detainees remain at Guantanamo and the 52 who have been cleared are awaiting Carter’s signature to be released.
Current law bans the use of federal funds to transfer Guantanamo Bay prisoners to American soil, which means the US has to find other countries willing to take the detainees. But 43 of the 52 prisoners that have been cleared are Yemeni, and the US government does not want to let them go back to their country since they do not deem the Yemeni government stable enough to monitor the released detainees, according to The Daily Beast’s report.
One defence official told The Daily Beast that Carter was under pressure from the White House to sign off on detainees’ releases more swiftly. But Carter already noted in June he was not confident the prison would close by the end of the administration and said he would not let himself be pressured.
“I’m not confident, but I am hopeful. I think we’ll have a good proposal, and I think we’re hoping it wins the support that it needs in Congress, so that we can move forward,” Carter said during an interview with CBS News in June.
Some defence officials also defended Carter, saying the cases he had to sign off on were among the toughest to resolve. The White House denied any friction between Carter and the administration.
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