House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said: "The president faces bipartisan opposition to closing Guantánamo Bays detention center because he has offered no alternative plan regarding the detainees there, nor a plan for future terrorist captures."
"Congress has not been idle on detention issues," McKeon added. "For the past two years, our committee has worked with our Senate counterparts to ensure that the certifications necessary to transfer detainees overseas are reasonable. The administration has never certified a single transfer. Contrary to what President Obama has implied, there are no restrictions on releasing detainees who have won their habeas cases in federal court."
Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Obama should "order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer detainees who have been cleared, which is more than half the Guantánamo population."
Of the 166 captives in Cuba, 86 were approved years ago for conditional release or transfer to other nations by a task force that gave vetoes to the CIA, the FBI and the Justice, State and Defense departments.
Other advocacy groups offered suggestions on what Obama could do immediately: Appoint a senior aide to manage the closure and order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer of detainees whove been cleared.
The president must demonstrate immediate, tangible progress toward the closure of Guantánamo or the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths, said a statement by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents detainees.
Some lauded his comments.
The writing is on the wall, said Daphne Eviatar, senior counsel at Human Rights First. Its time for the failed Guantanamo experiment to end and for our nation to return to the values that have kept us strong.
Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald contributed to this report.