President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he has sent Congress a plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility set up after the 9/11 attacks to hold suspected terrorists.
“This is about closing a chapter in our history. It reflects the lessons we’ve learned since 9/11,” Obama said, flanked by vice president Joe Biden and defence secretary Ash Carter.
“For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security, it undermines it,” he said. “It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, because they use it as propaganda.”
Shuttering the facility located on US territory in Cuba has been high on Obama’s list of priorities for a long time. It started as promise when he first ran for president in 2008.
Watch | Obama makes last-ditch attempt to close Guantanamo Bay prison
Obama’s plan is to bring between 30 and 60 of its 91 inmates to US soil, to be housed in prisons in South Carolina, Colorado and Kansas, and to send the rest to third-party countries.
Among the facility’s inmates is Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, a member of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda who has been called the “principal architect” of the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Congress has to sign off on the plan as it currently prohibits, by legislation, the administration from transferring these detainees to the US, for trial or incarceration.
Republican lawmakers are against it, even though President George W Bush, who set them up has supported its closure, and so has Senator John McCain, who ran against Obama.
Pushback from Republicans was quick, even from McCain, who called the plan “vague”, while Senator Marco Rubio, who is running for president, called it “dangerous”.