I hear “if only Obama would close Guantanamo” a lot, so this is going to be long. Here’s the meat of what he said about GTMO:
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 here 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 — this was a bipartisan issue. No person has ever escaped one of our super-max or military prisons here in the United States — ever. Our courts have convicted hundreds of people for terrorism or terrorism-related offenses, including some folks who are more dangerous than most GTMO detainees. They’re in our prisons.
And 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 have never have been opened. (Applause.) […]
Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from GTMO. (Applause.)
I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I’m 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. […]
Now, even after we take these steps one issue will remain — just how to deal with those GTMO detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks but who cannot be prosecuted, for example, because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing GTMO, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.
Is he mis-stating the Congressional restrictions? Is there some way he can go around Congress? What else, exactly, can he do?