Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said President Obama is “overcooking my grits” with the White House’s refusal to rule out executive action to close Guantanamo Bay — sending the prisoners to the United States, and potentially his home state.
Scott, along with Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), convened a press conference today to protest the administration’s consideration of the Naval Brig in Charleston, S.C., Fort Leavenworth, and two prisons in Colorado as potential transfer sites.
Having visited Guantanamo a couple of week ago, Scott said “its isolation is part of its charm, so to speak.”
“We have created the world’s best location for these enemy combatants – an isolated location surround by water, mountains, and deserts,” he said. “I will tell you that here is no question in my mind that there is only one location on earth – one location on earth – where these enemy combatants should be, and that is Gitmo, for several reasons. Having been there, I will tell you that we have amazing men and women serving in uniform, making sure with great professionalism and character and integrity, that they guard some of the worst terrorists known to man.”
There are 112 detainees left at Guantanamo Bay after last Friday’s transfer of Shaker Aamer to the United Kingdom.
The senator called the domestic transfer plan “approaching lawless behavior” and “the worst decision for America’s national security.”
“This is a settled issue. From polling in America to the votes in the House, the votes in the Senate, we are in one accord. Republicans and Democrats alike have consistently said that the only place – the only place- for these enemy combatants is not a domestic location,” Scott said. “I would say it is Gitmo.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that congressional opposition to domestic transfers — including from new House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — “contradict the position and the priorities that President Obama has articulated when it comes to the need to close the prison.”
“The suggestion that this cannot be done safely flies in the face of every piece of available evidence that exists,” Earnest insisted. “…The fact is there are many convicted terrorists who are serving time on American soil right now, and they do so in a way that does not risk the safety and security of the American people. What does risk the safety and security of the American people, according to Republicans who have had substantial national security responsibilities, is to continue to operate the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”
Obama vetoed a version of this year defense reauthorization act that included language restricting Gitmo transfers.
After Wednesday reports that Obama’s counterterrorism chief, Lisa Monaco, has been drafting the Guantanamo closure plan, Gardner said Obama is putting into motion a “secret plan” not shared with the American people but through “anonymous leaks to White House correspondents.”
“I wrote a letter last month asking the president about these efforts, and specifically why he was choosing to develop plans which fly in the face of the restrictions on Guantanamo transfers passed by Congress and which the president himself signed into law,” Gardner said.
“I have received no answers from the administration to my questions, despite the fact that numerous facilities in Colorado are apparently being considered for these transfers. If the president is determined to move terrorists to our state, Coloradans should know why and how he plans to do it. We’re waiting.”
Today, at the presser with Roberts and Scott, Gardner vowed to “not sit idly by while the president uses political promises to imperil the people of Colorado.”
One of the facilities being considered by the administration, he said, is “a closed state prison that would take millions upon millions upon millions of dollars to retrofit.”
“Is that part of the plan they have in place despite the law that says you cannot spend money to assist in the transfer?”