From: Jan, Tracy [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 11:36 AM
To: Velz, Peter T. EOP/WHO
Cc: Gabriel, Brian A. Jr. EOP/WHO ; Allen, Jessica L. EOP/WHO ; Barnes, Desiree N. EOP/WHO
Subject: Pool Report #1
President Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, delivered a 18-minute address on the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in the Roosevelt Room.
Obama said the detention facility “undermines” national security and is “counterproductive to our fight against terrorists because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit.”
“It drains military resources,” he said, adding that it cost $450 million last year alone to keep Guantanamo running and more than $200 million in additional costs to keep it open for less than 100 detainees remaining.
Guantanamo’s continued existence “harms partnerships with our allies and other countries.”
“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values. It undermines our standing in the world,” he said.
Obama acknowledged “the politics of this are tough” even though there was bipartisan support for closing Guantanamo when he was running for president. President Bush had said he wanted it closed. And “it was the one of the few things that I and my Republican opponent Senator John McCain agreed on.“
“This plan deserves a fair hearing, even in an election year,” Obama said. “The fact that I’m no longer running, Joe is no longer running, we’re not on the ballot, it gives us the capacity to not have to worry about the politics. Let us do what is right for America. Let us go ahead and close this chapter and do it right, do it carefully, do it in a way that makes sure we’re safe… I don’t want to pass this problem onto the next president, whoever it is.”
Obama said that out of the nearly 800 detainees once held, more than 85 percent have already been transferred to other countries, including more than 500 under President Bush. Under Obama’s administration,
147 have been transferred.
Today, just 91 detainees remain. Of those,l 35 detainees have already been approved for transfer to another country.
Obama said he would accelerate periodic reviews of remaining detainees to assess whether they still need to be held. If they no longer pose a continued significant threat, they may be eligible for transfers as well.
Currently 10 detainees are in some state of military commissions process, which he described as “very costly” and resulting in years of litigation without a resolution.
In contrast, he said, the federal courts have proven effective in prosecuting terrorists.
“We can capture terrorists, protect the American people, and when done right, we can find try ‘em and put ‘em in our maximum security prisons and it works out just fine,” Obama said. “This is about closing a chapter in our history. It reflects the lessons that we’ve learned since 9/11.”
His administration will work with Congress to find a secure location in the US (that has yet to be identified) to hold remaining detainees, including those subject to military commissions and those not yet able to be transferred elsewhere.
Closing Guantanamo will save up to $85 million a year, more than $300 million in 10 years, and $1.7 billion in 20 years, Obama said.
“Part of my message to the American people is we’re already holding a bunch of very dangerous people here in the US because we threw the book at ‘em and there have been no incidents,” Obama said. “We’ve managed it just fine.”
Some Roosevelt Room trivia from the WH: It was a conference room created in 1934, occupying the original location of President Theodore Roosevelt’s office when the West Wing was built in 1902. President Richard Nixon named the room in 1969 to honor both Roosevelts – Theodore for building the West Wing and Franklin D. for its expansion. Portraits of both presidents hang in the Roosevelt Room.
THE BOSTON GLOBE, Washington Bureau