Rep. James P. Moran urged President Obama on Friday to use his power to transfer about half of the Guantanamo Bay prison detainees to their home countries and give those being held indefinitely the chance to challenge their status.
Mr. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said that the controversial facility has stained the nation’s reputation and become a “recruitment tool for our enemies.”
“The political and legal expediency of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay has not been worth the cost to America’s reputation around the world, nor to the erosion of our legal and ethical standards here at home,” Mr. Moran said. “It should never have come into existence.”
The thorny issue of what to do with the prison has largely flown under the radar since Congress in 2009 blocked Mr. Obama’s push to move the prisoners to a Supermax-style prison in Illinois and then close the prison, which President George W. Bush opened four months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The has changed, though, thanks to a high-profile hunger strike at the prison that has led to military doctors force-feeding a number of the detainees.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, called on President Obama to appoint a White House envoy to resurrect efforts to transfer some of the detainees out of the prison.
Asked about the prison at a press conference last month, Mr. Obama told reporters that he still thinks the prison should be shuttered because it is expensive, hurts the nation’s international standing and is “a recruitment tool for extremists.
“I’m going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Moran on Friday said that he welcomed Mr. Obama’s pledge to revive the issue with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
But he also stressed that the Democrat already has the power to transfer 86 of the 166 detainees already slated for release back to their home countries. He also said that Mr. Obama should form a review board that provides the 46 detainees being held in indefinite detention the chance to challenge their status.
“He does have the authority to do so,” Mr. Moran said.