President's statement on National Defense Authorization Act

The bill cracks down on sexual assault in the military and eases restrictions on transferring detainees from the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the custody of foreign countries. Obama moves toward closing Guantanamo Bay prison

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

December 26, 2013

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

Today I have signed into law H.R. 3304, the "National
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014." I have signed
this annual defense authorization legislation because it will
provide pay and bonuses for our service members, enhance
counterterrorism initiatives abroad, build the security capacity
of key partners, and expand efforts to prevent sexual assault
and strengthen protections for victims.
Since taking office, I have repeatedly called upon the
Congress to work with my Administration to close the detention
facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The continued operation of
the facility weakens our national security by draining
resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and
partners, and emboldening violent extremists.
For the past several years, the Congress has enacted
unwarranted and burdensome restrictions that have impeded my
ability to transfer detainees from Guantanamo. Earlier this
year I again called upon the Congress to lift these restrictions
and, in this bill, the Congress has taken a positive step in
that direction. Section 1035 of this Act gives the
Administration additional flexibility to transfer detainees
abroad by easing rigid restrictions that have hindered
negotiations with foreign countries and interfered with
executive branch determinations about how and where to transfer
detainees. Section 1035 does not, however, eliminate all of the
unwarranted limitations on foreign transfers and, in certain
circumstances, would violate constitutional separation of powers
principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility,
among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations
with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee
transfers. Of course, even in the absence of any statutory
restrictions, my Administration would transfer a detainee only
if the threat the detainee may pose can be sufficiently
mitigated and only when consistent with our humane treatment
policy. Section 1035 nevertheless represents an improvement
over current law and is a welcome step toward closing the
facility.
In contrast, sections 1033 and 1034 continue unwise funding
restrictions that curtail options available to the executive
branch. Section 1033 renews the bar against using appropriated
funds to construct or modify any facility in the United States,
its territories, or possessions to house any Guantanamo detainee
in the custody or under the control of the Department of Defense
unless authorized by the Congress. Section 1034 renews the bar
against using appropriated funds to transfer Guantanamo
detainees into the United States for any purpose. I oppose
these provisions, as I have in years past, and will continue to
work with the Congress to remove these restrictions. The
executive branch must have the authority to determine when and
where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and

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circumstances of each case and our national security interests.
For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have
successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorists in Federal court.
Those prosecutions are a legitimate, effective, and powerful
tool in our efforts to protect the Nation. Removing that tool
from the executive branch does not serve our national security
interests. Moreover, section 1034 would, under certain
circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers
principles.
The detention facility at Guantanamo continues to impose
significant costs on the American people. I am encouraged that
this Act provides the Executive greater flexibility to transfer
Guantanamo detainees abroad, and look forward to working with
the Congress to take the additional steps needed to close the
facility. In the event that the restrictions on the transfer
of Guantanamo detainees in sections 1034 and 1035 operate in a
manner that violates constitutional separation of powers
principles, my Administration will implement them in a manner
that avoids the constitutional conflict.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
December 26, 2013.

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