President Barack Obama gave a wide and ranging speech on national security today — covering everything from drones, to press freedoms, to terrorism.
One part of his speech we were listening to: Guantanamo.
Others were listening, too. A heckler, Madea Benjamin, interrupted Obama multiple times, at one point causing the president to say:
“The voice of that woman is worth paying attenion to. Obviously I don’t agree with much of what she said and obviously she wasn’t listening to me,” he said. “These are tough issues.”
From his prepared remarks:
As President, I have tried to close GTMO. I transferred 67 detainees to other countries before Congress imposed restrictions to effectively prevent us from either transferring detainees to other countries, or imprisoning them in the United States. These restrictions make no sense. After all, under President Bush, some 530 detainees were transferred from GTMO with Congress’s support. When I ran for President the first time, John McCain supported closing GTMO. No person has ever escaped from one of our super-max or military prisons in the United States. Our courts have convicted hundreds of people for terrorism-related offenses, including some who are more dangerous than most GTMO detainees. Given my Administration’s relentless pursuit of al Qaeda’s leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened.
Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from GTMO. I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.
The numbers in Obama’s speech gave us pause, and we looked back at some of the number we pulled out earlier this month on the world’s most expensive prison:
- 166: Number of detainees currently at Gitmo.
- $177 million: Total operating budget for 2013.
- $1,066,265: Amount U.S. taxpayers will spend on each detainee in 2013.
- Compare the previous number to $33,903: Average cost per inmate at a maximum security Federal prison.