Just as President Barack Obama is planning to send Congress his plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison this year, leaders of the military say it will not transfer any detainees to the U.S., unless the law prohibiting such transfers is changed.
Lt. General William Mayville Jr., the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said as much in a letter to Congress last week, which I obtained. Mayville’s letter gets to the heart of a knotty constitutional issue on Guantanamo: Does President Obama have the authority to close the facility without the consent of Congress?
Writing to 16 House members who served in the military, Mayville writes: “Current law prohibits the use of funds to ‘transfer, release or assist in the transfer or release’ of detainees of Guantanamo Bay to or within the United States, and prohibits the construction, modification or acquisition of any facility within the United States to house any Guantanamo detainee. The Joint Staff will not take any action contrary to those restrictions” . . .
Unlike Mayville, Obama himself has been coy on whether the law prevents him from closing Guantanamo. In December at his year-end press conference, the president said, “We will wait until Congress has definitively said no to a well-thought-out plan with numbers attached to it before we say anything definitive about my executive authority here.” (Read more from “Military Tells Congress It Can’t Send Gitmo Detainees to U.S.” HERE)