Ben Rhodes, a top national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said Friday if a U.S. prison is good enough for El Chapo, it’s good enough for Guantanamo Bay detainees who require indefinite detention.
Rhodes noted that bipartisan support exists for extraditing El Chapo, a notorious drug kingpin in Mexico, to the U.S., though that same support is absent when discussing the move of Gitmo detainees to U.S. facilities.
“If our prison system is good enough for El Chapo, and good enough, by the way, for the Boston marathon bomber, good enough for Abu Khatalla, the mastermind of the Benghazi attacks, good enough for the Times Square bomber, it should be good enough for whatever remaining number of Gitmo detainees are there after we’ve completed a set of transfers,” Rhodes said, according to Bloomberg.
The Obama administration has recently intensified its efforts to transfer as many detainees as possible out of the facility, with the most recent transfer of 10 finally dropping the total number of prisoners below 100 to 93. Those 10 Yemenis have been sent to Oman, which neighbors war-torn Yemen, as the administration is currently banned from shipping them off directly to Yemen. Yet, sending them to Oman instead has not engendered much sympathy from Congress.
Upon hearing about the transfer, GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte said in a statement that “The administration has not been forthright with the American people about the terrorist affiliations and activities of these detainees or provided sufficient assurances that they will not return to the battlefield.”
A total of 59 detainees in Gitmo must be held indefinitely. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said recently on Fox News that the Obama administration intends to provide a closure plan to Congress, but did not say whether the White House will consider other means if Congress does not cooperate. While McDonough didn’t say anything to Fox News, Obama has said elsewhere that he may use executive action to finish the job.
The problem with executive action, however, is that “[Obama] still needs to get Congress to authorize the money to appropriate the money and the funds to do this,” according to CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
The Department of Defense is already considering locations within the U.S. to house detainees. Colorado is one state that has reportedly received extra attention, and it may end up being the site of choice.