“There are some renditions that are in fact justifiable and defensible, and there are others that have been mistakes and are not justifiable,” the senior White House official said.
While that review is ongoing, a separate Obama official said, renditions will continue.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs later accidentally identified the senior official as “Greg.”
While many congressional Democrats applauded the president’s decisions, the orders ran into immediate criticism from Republicans, who cited the danger of transferring known and suspected terrorists to U.S. or military prisons.
“Some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world are at Gitmo,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Only one wing of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth meets maximum security requirements, and it’s far too small for even a handful of detainees.
“Detainees require their own hospital and medical care, religious spaces, courtrooms, and even recreation facilities. Plus, there’s no support facilities for the several thousand guards needed and their families, said Mr. Roberts, a former Marine who visited the facility in 2005.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, introduced a bill that would prohibit the transfer of terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Camp Pendleton San Diego.
“Mr. Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo severely undermines our nation’s detention operations,” Mr. Hunter said.
Three Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this week that would require the president to give 90 days’ notice before closing Guantanamo, and would require a study of the cost and feasibility of re-locating detainees from Gitmo.
And House Republicans introduced a bill that would prohibit the release or transfer of Guantanamo detainees into the U.S.
Sen. John D. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat and outgoing chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, applauded the president’s decision.
There has been broad support among Senate Intelligence Committee members for some time that the fight against terrorist threats around the globe can only be successful over the long haul if we transition out of Guantanamo, end enhanced interrogation programs, and reform DIR (detention, interrogation and rendition) policies and practices - and it is extremely gratifying that President Obama has initiated these essential changes right away, Mr. Rockefeller said.
The order on Guantanamo will begin an immediate review, led by the Attorney General, of all 245 detainees at the detention center, to determine if they should be prosecuted, transferred to countries of origin, or released.
“We will be setting up a process whereby this will be taking place,” Mr. Obama said as he prepared to sign the order.
The Secretaries of Defense, State, and Homeland Security, along with the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take part in the review.