(CNSNews.com) - In a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, Philippines, today, President Barack Obama expressed his view that the U.S. government’s actions in incarcerating terrorists in a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, helps the Islamic State terror group and wastes federal money.
“With respect to Guantanamo,” said Obama, “in the same way that the rhetoric around refugees--suggesting that we should only allow Christians in, or suggesting that we should bar every Syrian applicant even if they are underage--in the same way that that alienates Muslim Americans who are our fellow citizens, our friends and our neighbors and our coworkers, as well as the entire world of 1.6 billion Muslims, Guantanamo has been an enormous recruitment tool for organizations like ISIL.
“It’s part of how they rationalize and justify their demented, sick perpetration of violence on innocent people,” said Obama.
Obama also argued that the federal government could save money by closing Guantanamo.
“We are spending millions of dollars per detainee, and it’s not necessary for us to keep our people safe,” said Obama.
The National Defense Authorization Act that Congress sent to Obama earlier this week includes language that forbids the Executive Branch from spending any to move prisoners out of Guantanamo into facilities—or freedom—within the United States.
“No amounts authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available for the Department of Defense,” the bill says, “may be used during the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on December 31, 2016, to transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release to or within the United States, its territories, or possessions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any other detainee who—(1) is not a United States citizen or a member of the Armed Forces of the United States; and (2) is or was held on or after January 20, 2009, at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the Department of Defense.”
A previous version of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress in October, also included this language. Obama vetoed that version of the bill, and in his veto statement cited the language that tied his hands on Guantanamo as one of the things he disliked about it.
In that statement, Obama insisted that Guantanamo “weakens our national security” by “emboldening violent extremists.”
“I have repeatedly called upon the Congress to work with my Administration to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and explained why it is imperative that we do so,” said Obama. “As I have noted, the continued operation of this facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists.”
At his press conference in the Philippines today, Obama suggested that members of Congress were resisting his desire to close Guantanamo because it makes “for good political soundbites.”
“So we are going to go through meticulously, with Congress, what our options are and why we think this should be closed,” he said. “I guarantee you there will be strong resistance, because in the aftermath of Paris, I think that there is just a very strong tendency for us to get worked up around issues that don’t actually make us safer but make for good political sound bites.