The administration’s fitful effort to shut down the prison is collapsing again. Ashton B. Carter, in his first six months as defense secretary, has yet to make a decision on any newly proposed deals to transfer individual detainees. His delay, which echoes a pattern last year by his predecessor, Chuck Hagel, is generating mounting concern in the White House and State Department, officials say.
Last week, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, convened a cabinet-level “principals committee” meeting on how to close the prison before the president leaves office in 18 months. At that meeting, Mr. Carter was presented with an unsigned National Security Council memo stating that he would have 30 days to make decisions on newly proposed transfers, according to several officials familiar with the internal deliberations.
But the meeting ended inconclusively. Mr. Carter did not commit to making a decision on pending transfer proposals by a particular date, including the repatriation of a Mauritanian and a Moroccan. Nor was it clear whether he accepted the 30-day deadline, those officials said.
Can the administration arm-twist Secretary Carter into approving more releases? What would be in it for him?
Even if they can, they would still have to deal with Congress. Back in January, Politico had an interesting take on the strategy the administration may be planning to use to overcome the very large reluctance of Congress to closing Gitmo:
Administration officials say their strategy is to keep cutting the number of prisoners, which started at 242 when Obama was sworn in and now stands at 127. When the tally drops below 100 and perhaps even as low as a few dozen, officials say, the cost per prisoner will zoom so high that keeping the facility open will be transparently foolish and lawmakers will abandon their resistance to closing the island jail.
“I think the facts and the logic will be very compelling, once we get it down to a small core,” said Cliff Sloan, who stepped down last year after 18 months as the State Department envoy for Guantánamo closure. “I think the case becomes overwhelming for them to be able to be moved to the U.S. and placed in very secure facilities.”
-- snip --
“Nobody should underestimate the determination of the president to close Guantánamo in his presidency,” Sloan said. “He feels very strongly about it.”
He feels very strongly about it? Well, I feel very strongly about buying my own stretch of prime trout-fishing river front someday. Let’s see who gets lucky first, me or Obama.
Back to the story:
“If Obama couldn’t win over Congress on this issue when the Democrats controlled one house, how much more likely is it he’ll be able to win over Congress when the Republicans control both houses?” asked detainee lawyer David Remes.
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By 230-184, the House cast a largely party-line vote last year to put a one-year halt on all transfers out of Guantánamo, a measure stripped out in talks with the Democratic-controlled Senate. Republicans now have 12 more House seats than they did last year and have gained a majority in the Senate.
The numbers are against the administration on this, but I must say that's an interesting political strategy they have for turning things around. It is a well-known fact that our elected representatives hate to be associated with wasteful government spending. Why, I'm sure the typical Congressman would like nothing better than to get into a debate with an opponent who promises to spend whatever amount of money it takes to keep those prisoners in Gitmo and away from the United States.
I mean, they would, right?