National Security & Defense

Lawmakers Ask Top Generals to Defy Obama if He Tries to Close Gitmo

Outside Camp VI at Guantanamo Bay. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

A group of House Republicans has asked the nation’s top generals to defy President Obama if he attempts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by executive order.

The 16 veteran lawmakers told the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that such an order would be illegal. “We therefore respectfully encourage you in the strongest terms to seek appropriate legal advice, prior to executing any order from President Obama to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States against the express will of Congress and the law of the land,” says their letter, written by Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) and released Monday.

Obama hasn’t announced that he intends to close the facility unilaterally, but his team has refused to rule out such a move, even after he signed a defense-spending bill earlier this month that bans the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.

The White House chose not to release its plan to close the facility after veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate voted for that bill, but Obama’s spokesman left the door open to shuttering the prison by executive order.

“I’m going to protect the ability of the President to use his authority to move the country in the direction that he believes it should be headed,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters earlier this month.

#share#Attorney General Loretta Lynch acknowledged last week that Obama does not have that authority. “With respect to individuals being transferred to the United States, the law currently does not allow that,” Lynch told the House Judiciary Committee. “That is not, as I am aware of, going to be contemplated, given the legal prescriptions.”

The lawmakers cited Lynch’s testimony in their letter, reminding the generals of their duty to disobey any order that contravenes U.S. law.

“The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) contemplates that with respect to enlisted personnel and officers in the United States armed forces, when an order given by one’s superiors comes into conflict with the laws of this nation, the latter prevail,” they wrote.

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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