23 February, 2016
United States President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday his proposal to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But leaders of the Republican-controlled Congress quickly criticized and re-stated their opposition to the plan.
Obama said at the White House that Guantanamo Bay "does not advance our national security, it undermines it." He asked "If, as a nation, we don't deal with this now, when will we deal with it?"
The president appealed to Congress to be "on the right side of history" and asked the nation to act on the "lessons" learned over the past 15 years.
Paul Ryan is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Republican speaker said, "Congress has left no room for confusion. It is against the law—and it will stay against the law—to transfer terrorist detainees to American soil."
Michael McCaul is the House Homeland Security Chairman. He said, "We are at war, yet incredibly the president is more focused on relocating and releasing enemy combatants than on detaining new ones."
Guantanamo Bay opened after 9/11
The Guantanamo Bay prison opened in 2002 under the administration former President George W. Bush. Its opening followed the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.
Obama promised during his 2008 presidential campaign that he would close the prison. The center has become known for its aggressive treatment of detainees. Some accused the United States of torture.
This week, Obama said that Guantanamo is "viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law."
Almost 800 detainees have been held at Guantanamo Bay. Many of them remained there for long periods of time without being charged with a crime or put on trial. Many of the detainees have been sent back to their home countries. Others have been sent to nations willing to take them in. Fewer than 100 detainees remain there.
Obama's plan to close Guantanamo
On Tuesday, the U.S. Defense Department delivered Obama's plan to close Guantanamo to the United States Congress.
The plan proposes 13 sites within the United States where the military could transfer a group of about 30 to 60 detainees. The proposal does not recommend which U.S. site should be chosen for the transfer. The proposed sites include federal prisons in Kansas, Colorado and South Carolina, as well as military centers.
Current U.S. law bans the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to locations within the United States. Some say those transfers could bring security concerns.
However, a top administration official said closing the prison is important to national security. The official said that the facility has "inspired" jihadists and served as a recruiting tool for terrorists.
Obama said that when he took office, there was Congressional support from both Democrats and Republicans for closing the prison. But, over time, lawmakers have become "worried about the politics" of it, he said.
With less than a year left in his presidency, 91 detainees remain.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Carla Babb reported this story from Washington. Ashley Thompson adapted it for Learning English, with additional materials from Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
confusion - n. a situation in which people are uncertain about what to do or are unable to understand something clearly
stain - n. something that causes people to have less respect for someone
transfer - v. to move (someone or something) from one place to another
inspire - v. to make (someone) want to do something
recruit - v. to find suitable people and get them to join a company, an organization, the armed forces, etc.