President Obama famously pledged to close Guantanamo Bay on prison upon entering office in 2009, but more than four years later, the detention facility remains open and conditions there are reportedly worse than ever.
A hunger strike by detainees protesting their indefinite detention has grown from 6 participants to 100 in the last two months, forcing the White House to take notice. At Tuesday’s news conference, the president said he remained committed to shutting down GITMO and promised to do “everything that we can do administratively” to ensure it happens.
But while Congress has barred the administration from moving detainees to prisons on U.S. soil, the administration does have the power to move them elsewhere using waivers granted by the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
“There is more that President Obama could have been doing since January 2012 to resume the outward flow of the 86 prisoners who have been designated for potential transfer if security conditions can be met,” New York Times Washington correspondent Charlie Savage told the panel on Wednesday’s NOW with Alex Wagner. “He has not issued any of those waivers that he has the authority to issue if he wants to and that is the focus of what is going to happen now going forward.”
Of the 799 individuals who have spent time at the prison since it opened in January 2002, 166 remain, with the last detainee release taking place in September 2012.
According to data compiled by The New York Times, President Obama oversaw 49 transfers in 2009–his first year in office, 24 transfers in 2010 and then just 1 in 2011, 4 in 2012 and none so far this year.