Obama irks rights groups on Guantanamo with bill

Obama irks rights groups on Guantanamo with bill

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Obama irks rights groups on Guantanamo with bill

US President Obama celebrates the New Year swimming in Hawaii. He signed a defense bill that thwart his promise to close Guantanamo base. AFP photo

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed into law a $633 billion dollar defense bill despite warnings from rights campaigners that the measure will tie his hands on closing Guantanamo Bay.

Obama signed the bill, which among many measures, authorizes funding for the war in Afghanistan and boosts security at diplomatic missions worldwide following the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in September. It also tightens sanctions against Iran, increases funding for special forces and requires a report from the administration on options for stopping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad using air power against civilians. But the bill also contains measures designed by Congress to thwart his promise to close the war on terror camp in Cuba, and which initially prompted Obama to warn he could wield his veto to reject the whole law.

Obama said he signed the measure because it authorized “essential support” for serving members of the armed forces and renewed vital programs necessary to maintaining the strongest military in the world. However, he criticized clauses in the legislation that would renew for one year the ban on using taxpayer funds to transfer Guantanamo Bay inmates to the United States and makes it more difficult to repatriate them abroad.

‘Waste of resources’

 “It’s not encouraging that the President continues to be willing to tie his own hands when it comes to closing Guantanamo,” said Dixon Osburn of Human Rights First. Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International U.S. warned that “solutions for ending human rights violations, not excuses, must be found.” Obama recently called the prison camps a waste of national security resources. “I continue to believe that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies, and strengthening our enemies,” Obama said on Jan. 2.

The bill authorizes $527.4 billion for the base Pentagon budget; $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations including the war in Afghanistan; and $17.8 billion for national security programs.