Thornberry: Obama 'Not Serious...About Working With Congress' to Close Guantanamo

By Susan Jones | February 24, 2016 | 7:51am EST
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, speaks on Capitol Hill in March 2015. (AP File Photo)

( - Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) says there's no chance that President Obama's plan to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay will get through Congress, because Obama is signaling that he is "not serious" about working with Congress.

"Not this plan," Thornberry told Fox News Tuesday evening. "This is pretty thin stuff. You know, the president has talked for seven plus years about closing Guantanamo. We put into law last year a provision that says, 'Put a plan where your mouth is.'

"And what he comes back with is eight pages and three lines of just vague generalities.

"We asked, 'OK, where are you going to put these people?' Well, we have 13 possible locations. 'Where you going to put new detainees?' Well, we have a menu of options. 'How much is it going to cost?' Well, it may be $300 (million) to $500 (million) initially, but we don't know for sure.

"There's no specificity in this whatsoever, which leads me to think that he's not serious, certainly, about working with Congress to accomplish it. And the rest of the story is, there's not a better option" (than Guantanamo).

As for Obama's claim that terrorists use Gitmo as a recruiting tool, Thornberry said he doubts it:

"I don't think much of anybody believes that terrorists will lay down their arms if we were just to close Guantanamo. Of course, they would find excuse after excuse to continue to kill innocent people.

Secondly, the people at Guantanamo are al-Qaeda. Now, al-Qaeda is a rival to ISIS. So, whatever we do with Guantanamo and the al-Qaeda people, I don't see how that affects ISIS, which is the biggest terrorist threat we face now. That argument which he's used for seven years is really running thin."

Thornberry also rejected Obama's cost-savings argument:

"I think what a lot of people don't realize is to bring them (detainees) into the U.S., you have to build a whole new facility. You cannot keep law of war detainees in the same facility like Supermax, where you have convicted criminals.

"So you have to have separate guards, you have to have all things that are separate and apart from your criminal system. So the idea that there would be some huge amount of savings is ridiculous.

"What there may well be, though, is an increased danger to the communities in or around where you transfer those people. Now, how do you put a cost estimate on that? That has to be considered as well."
Thornberry said communities that are forced to take the enemy combatants -- the worst of the worst -- will become "a natural target for terrorists who want to demonstrate something."

"I mean, look at what we've seen with San Bernardino, other sorts of things. You make a community a natural target to have Guantanamo detainees there. Not that they would escape, but it is a magnet for terrorism.

"My point is, you got to have the security, local law enforcement to deal with that increased threat. All of that has to be considered in the cost as well. There's not too many folks who are trying to swim into Guantanamo Bay in order to make a demonstration or to blow something up as a protest."

Thornberry said there's not enough detail in Obama's general plan to warrant a committee hearing.

"You know, we'll give him a chance to give us more information and so forth, but again, this is pretty thin stuff."

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