Congress: Not so fast on closing Gitmo

posted at 10:11 am on June 19, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The enthusiasm for closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay has waned on Capitol Hill ever since it became clear that our allies want nothing to do with the terrorists imprisoned there — and that the administration is considering releasing some in the US as a confidence-builder.  Congress passed the war-funding bill that Obama wanted, but stripped out all money for closing Gitmo.  Instead, they included a number of restrictions intended on tying Obama’s hands and slowing down the process … perhaps to a halt:

Legislation to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year is on its way to President Barack Obama, but it provides no money for closing the Guantanamo detainee prison and sets tough restrictions on the transfer of its inmates. …

Lawmakers sent Obama, who wants to close the prison, not one but two messages Thursday to prove they don’t like the idea.

In addition to the war fighting bill, which received final congressional approval, the House used the first spending bill for 2010 to deny the president money to close the prison next year. The legislation funds law enforcement and science programs.

Obama will now have to contend with a minefield of prerequisites in order to proceed with closing Gitmo.  It won’t be impossible, but it certainly will prove challenging, and perhaps impossible in any realistic sense for the next couple of years.  The bill, according to the AP report, takes the following steps:

  • Prohibit detainees from being released in the United States.
  • Prevent prisoners being transferred to the United States, except to be prosecuted. Even then, a number of requirements would have to be met, including a plan showing the risks involved, the costs, the legal rationale and certification from the attorney general that the individual poses little or no security risk.
  • Stop detainees from being transferred or released to another country unless the president meets a separate set of requirements, including an assessment of risks posed and terms of the transfer agreement with the receiving country.

Clearly, Congress has reacted poorly to Obama’s attempt to bribe Palau and Bermuda to take the Uighurs off of his hands.  Only four have been released, and this appears to delay the rest from getting transferred out of the prison.  The risk assessment may not be a difficult hurdle, but the Bermuda transfer in particular shows that the Obama administration hadn’t bothered to do a serious one at all.  Bermuda security authorities hadn’t prepared for the arrival of Tora Bora-trained Muslim separatists, mainly because their government hadn’t informed them and the White House hadn’t informed the British government, which has responsibility for security in Bermuda.

Without an option to release Gitmo prisoners in the US, other Western nations will refuse to accept them.  Germany has been particularly insistent on reciprocity, but other nations will also find it a hard sell to their constituents that Gitmo prisoners are perfectly safe while the US refuses to countenance their presence within our country.  Obama will find it extremely difficult under these restrictions to meet his one-year deadline for shuttering the one facility explicitly built to house the worst of terrorists.  And if Congress’ reaction is any indication, Obama is finding himself increasingly marginalized on the issue.

Note: This will be the last emergency war supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan.  The administration and Congress have finally taken the wise decision to include war spending in the regular budgeting process, something George Bush should have done after 2004 when it became clear we would stay in both Iraq and Afghanistan for the long term.


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Alternate headline: Congresscritters look at Polls too.

BPD on June 19, 2009 at 10:14 AM

Congressional Junket to Bermuda strangely cancelled.

profitsbeard on June 19, 2009 at 10:16 AM

President Obama should pay CALIFORNIA to take Guantanamo prisoners… we need the money more than Palau and Bermuda.

originalpechanga on June 19, 2009 at 10:16 AM

The bill also includes a provision that if Gitmo is not closed by Dec 31, 2009, the Federal government will provide $45,000 to any Cuban that wants to trade in their vintage 1950′s vehicles for the purchase of a new Government Motors vehicle (to cover their hardship of continued hosting of this monstrosity).

WashJeff on June 19, 2009 at 10:17 AM

I have heard several mentions that there was something in this Bill that either promoted or hindered the release of the photos from Abu Ghraib but haven’t figured out what the true story is. I know, Google is my friend.

Cindy Munford on June 19, 2009 at 10:18 AM

I like Dem vs. Dem.

jgapinoy on June 19, 2009 at 10:18 AM

Hope & Change!

I still think there are sea kitties who need to be fed.

rbj on June 19, 2009 at 10:19 AM

You’ll know the administration has raised the white flag on Gitmo when the big media suddenly stops making any mention of the facility, and the ‘plight’ of the terrorist detainees suddenly becomes of interest only to those on the very far left (kind of like Cindy Sheehan, when she suddenly decided to run for Congress against Nancy Pelosi last year and became a non-person during the 2008 election).

jon1979 on June 19, 2009 at 10:19 AM

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Reality.

Reality who?

The same reality you’ve been ignoring for awhile. Let me in!

shick on June 19, 2009 at 10:20 AM

•Prevent prisoners being transferred to the United States, except to be prosecuted.
Prevent prisoners being transferred to the United States,
except to be waterboarded or executed.

fourdeucer on June 19, 2009 at 10:22 AM

If the bill didn’t allow for monies for Gitmo, where did the $200 mil for Bermuda come from?

txag92 on June 19, 2009 at 10:23 AM

Oh please. Like this wasn’t organized in some back room, where Obama gets to blame the “Republicans” for keeping the funding out of the bill and save face from a fairly humiliating spectacle.

amkun on June 19, 2009 at 10:23 AM

You’ll know the administration has raised the white flag on Gitmo when the big media suddenly stops making any mention of the facility….

jon1979 on June 19, 2009 at 10:19 AM

My prediction is that Obama produces a press release on the Friday after Thanksgiving that Gitmo will NOT be closed by the end of the year and its future status is still under review.

There will probably be something hot going on in Korea, Iran or Israel by them to make this a footnote.

WashJeff on June 19, 2009 at 10:24 AM

This should be interesting to watch develop.

Tonus on June 19, 2009 at 10:24 AM

oh my, is congress doubting duh one’s divine leadership, can you say buyer’s remorse……

SHARPTOOTH on June 19, 2009 at 10:25 AM

If the bill didn’t allow for monies for Gitmo, where did the $200 mil for Bermuda come from?

txag92 on June 19, 2009 at 10:23 AM

Obama appointees paying their delinquint taxes.

WashJeff on June 19, 2009 at 10:25 AM

My guess is Obama wanted this. It gives him cover to just blame Congress for not letting him shut it down. Deflects the nutroot’s anger while allowing him to do the popular thing (not close Gitmo).

Kronos on June 19, 2009 at 10:26 AM

What’s the Obama apology letter to terrorists replacing his signed closure letter posted on the wire fence at GITMO going to say?

Fletch54 on June 19, 2009 at 10:26 AM

The idea has suddenly penetrated the senile old fools vacuous skulls that closing Gitmo means letting the detainees go free.

All this wonderful campaign rhetoric about closing Gitmo was all well and good until the old fools understood what it actually meant.

Skandia Recluse on June 19, 2009 at 10:26 AM

It’scalled NIMD (Not in My Distrcit) Syndrome.

Highly contageous.

Akzed on June 19, 2009 at 10:28 AM

These people couldn’t close a matchbook.

LibTired on June 19, 2009 at 10:30 AM

On the other hand, he could just close Gitmo anyway, and challenge congress to do something about it. The way he fired those IG’s, completely ignoring the relevant laws.

MarkTheGreat on June 19, 2009 at 10:30 AM

the senile old fools vacuous skulls

Skandia Recluse on June 19, 2009 at 10:26 AM

Hey! I resemble that remark.

Loxodonta on June 19, 2009 at 10:32 AM

Do you think BHO cares about what the plebians in Congress want…

mjbrooks3 on June 19, 2009 at 10:36 AM

Lawmakers sent Obama, who wants to close the prison, not one but two messages Thursday to prove they don’t like the idea.

The erosion continues, but Democrats will never be able to distance themselves enough from the disasters Obama is causing here and abroad.

Loxodonta on June 19, 2009 at 10:36 AM

I thought the Obama administration was sending the terrorists to all kinds of great vacation spots.

Jeff from WI on June 19, 2009 at 10:40 AM

Obama can now quit thinking of ways to close the place, and blame Congress for not letting him close it.

That way, Obama gets off the hook for an insane and clueless promise he made, and the place stays operative.

Ahh, yes. Makes you wonder if he had any contact with the congressmen that wrote the bill, getting him off the hook?

Hmm. Avoiding Hard Choices: The Obama Administration.

bradley11 on June 19, 2009 at 10:40 AM

2010: The Event Horizon Comes Quickly.

SouthernGent on June 19, 2009 at 10:42 AM

hmmm….with NASA eyeing more moon landings and the White House reviewing it’s committment to NASA soon, I just wonder if The One might consider sending these guys to the Sea of Tranquility.

DrW on June 19, 2009 at 10:42 AM

The erosion continues, but Democrats will never be able to distance themselves enough from the disasters Obama is causing here and abroad.

Loxodonta on June 19, 2009 at 10:36 AM

You’re probably right but it will be entertaining to watch them try…

ladyingray on June 19, 2009 at 10:42 AM

Next up?

Will Congress see the light and put the brakes on Obama’s headlong rush towards Healthcare Hell?

Will they do the right thing for America and say NO to the cap & trade tax economy-crushing penalty on progress?

I’m not holding my breath.

hillbillyjim on June 19, 2009 at 10:44 AM

I’m not sure I want Congress micromanaging detention policies of enemy combatants/terrorists of the President during a war.

Yes, they have the power of the purse and can Constitutionally do this. But this is too much.

Yeah, Mr. President, you invited this without doing the prep work before grandstanding with your statement on closing the facility.

Still….

SteveMG on June 19, 2009 at 10:47 AM

Is it possible that the not-so-far left in Congress is actually becoming aware that the country is about to boot all their sorry butts out as soon as their re-election bids come up.

Didn’t think so. But, I’m trying to be optimistic since it is friday.

HoustonRight on June 19, 2009 at 10:47 AM

Gitmo detainees will be included within immigration reform… the audacity of BHO.

mjbrooks3 on June 19, 2009 at 10:52 AM

I find it almost difficult to believe that this Congress acted this rationally on this issue.

Then they go and put that cars for clunkers crap in a war funding bill and bring me right back to the reality that they are Democrats.

myrenovations on June 19, 2009 at 10:55 AM

Bam could care less about Gitmo. It’s a win for him either way. He can say I signed an order to close it, but Congress didn’t give me the money to do it. Keeps his nuts happy and keeps the terrorists where they belong, behind bars in Gitmo. It’s all a game with him.

Kissmygrits on June 19, 2009 at 10:56 AM


Some of us had the benefit of schooling in New England. The Veterans came home and told us what they had seen and defeated. Sadly schools now waste time on BS. The other thing we observed about Yankees are the high poly sylabic verbal skills. Long speeches and large words seem to be the stock in trade of Madison Ave and Hollywood. However BS is still BS even if it takes a thousands words to say nothing.COngress needs to micro manage the Hell outa the won.

Col.John Wm. Reed on June 19, 2009 at 11:06 AM

Bush was right. I love that they can’t say it.

Jim Treacher on June 19, 2009 at 11:07 AM

Gitmo is one of the things dragging Obama’s poll numbers down.It’s having the same effect as “gays in the military” had on Clinton.The American people clearly don’t think its a good idea to release terrorists in America. If the GOP is smart they will feature the Bermuda Uighurs in campaign commercials next year.Caption could read: Trained terrorists living the good life on your tax dollars courtesy of President Obama.

Hera on June 19, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Can you imagine how pissed off the Thin-Skinned One will be when Republicans make a comeback in 2010? He’s got it easy right now and he’s still completely blowing it.

John the Libertarian on June 19, 2009 at 11:17 AM

Bush was right. I love that they can’t say it.

Jim Treacher on June 19, 2009 at 11:07 AM

Exactly. And he was right to bring democracy to Iraq. Look at Iran.

If he only hadn’t panicked with the TARP bailouts…

John the Libertarian on June 19, 2009 at 11:19 AM

The fact that Obama even considers releasing them here, is insane…and makes me very wary, about this mans REAL agenda!

capejasmine on June 19, 2009 at 11:20 AM

Just another “Friday Misdirection”. BOBO can now throw Congress under the wheels of the bus and say It’s not my fault. Bush did it…Oh, can’t say that no more! The wheels on the bus go round and round. They are flip flopping so fast they are almost becoming Transparent. /sarc

Eagles Dominion on June 19, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Close it, send them all to Pelosi’s house in California and let her have them as her house help. Sleep well Nancy.

workingforpigs on June 19, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Hawaii loves Obama. Send the terrorists to Maui

Jeff from WI on June 19, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Hawaii loves Obama. Send the terrorists to Maui

Jeff from WI on June 19, 2009 at 11:41 AM

So the Norks can take them out?

WashJeff on June 19, 2009 at 11:47 AM

Congress: Not so fast on closing Gitmo

I have to really laugh at the stupidity of the left on Gitmo. Hey dumbo pendejos, the round wheel has all ready been invented, and so have why Guantanamo has been used as a prisoner of war detention center. The first flash on your thought pattern should be, we’re a nation still at war with a ruthless enemy, then start thinking from there.

byteshredder on June 19, 2009 at 12:00 PM

The problem with Gitmo is all the terrorists living there.

This is a problem that is easy to solve.

gridlock2 on June 19, 2009 at 12:01 PM

Bush was right. I love that they can’t say it.

Jim Treacher on June 19, 2009 at 11:07 AM

Yea and don’t you love that this happened a day after Bush made the comment about closing it being a mistake? hahaha

scalleywag on June 19, 2009 at 12:20 PM

BUSH won, Mr. Gibbs!

scalleywag on June 19, 2009 at 12:21 PM

Wow. Does this mean that Bush built Gitmo for purely practical reasons, not because he had a yearning to imprison brown-skinned people of a different religion from himself?

OMG, OMG, my lefty world is falling in. /sarc

smellthecoffee on June 19, 2009 at 12:31 PM

To the far left this new prez must be starting to look like real loser because… Bush’s war effort is still the best option.

RalphyBoy on June 19, 2009 at 12:33 PM

I am sorry but for seven years Old Europe claimed that we were housing harmless carpet salesmen and camel drivers imprisoned wrongfully by the eeevil booooosh administration and that these countries would be happy to have these prisoners so that GITMO could be closed. They knew Bush wouldn’t close GITMO nor transfer the prisoners to Europe, so this was a self righteous double bump for the Euros. However, when Obama got elected the scales fell from these twisted Euros eyes and now all of a sudden these detainees aren’t the innocents that the Euros claimed they were, all of a sudden Booosh was right and they had to be detained, far away from Europe.Obama the ignorant took the Euros at their word for their pronouncements during the evil boooosh administration, and tried to hand these terrorists off to Europe only to find that there were no open hands there only clenched fists. So Obama can’t do the reckless thing that he wanted to do and must bribe other countries to take them.

eaglewingz08 on June 19, 2009 at 12:51 PM

Mr. Morissey:

You seem to be forgetting one tenet of the Obama Administration – The rules do not apply to them. They will do what they want and stonewall any investigations.

With a Democratic majority in Congress and a compliant mediathere is little chance of any change.

davod on June 19, 2009 at 2:40 PM

“The risk assessment may not be a difficult hurdle”

“certification from the attorney general that the individual poses little or no security risk”

I think the risk assessment is a big hurdle. What attorney general will want to make that certification.

burt on June 19, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Hey, Obama! How’s it feel when the shoe is on the other foot? How do you like being the guy that has to execute laws other people pass?

Kafir on June 19, 2009 at 11:06 PM