Former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig, who drafted President Obama’s executive order closing the Guantanamo Bay prisoner camp in 2009, speaks with Al Jazeera English:
• Says Obama could have closed Guantanamo sooner: “I believe he could have.”
• On Obama not fulfilling his election promise to close the prison so far: “No need for the President of the United States to apologise to anyone.”
• Says Hillary Clinton “fully supports closing Guantanamo”
In an interview with Al Jazeera English’s flagship current affairs show, UpFront, former Obama White House counsel, Gregory Craig, says Obama could have closed Guantanamo sooner.
“I believe he could have,” Craig told UpFront host Mehdi Hasan when asked if Obama could have closed Guantanamo earlier in his Presidency. “It’s well within – smack-dab – in the core of his responsibilities and his authority as commander in chief to be able to say […] I want to move this detainee from this military facility to another military facility. He has not exercised his authority under the Commander-in-Chief’s powers to do it unilaterally. I think he has the right to do it and he should do it.”
“No one thought that it would be this difficult,” he added.
Responding to Congress’ ongoing attempts to pass legislation blocking President Obama from closing Guantanamo, Craig said, “Those laws are unconstitutional.”
Craig also commented on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s comments that the President did not have the authority to close Guantanamo. “With respect, I disagree with the Speaker of the House on his understanding of the constitution.”
Despite President Obama pledging to close Guantanamo during his first election campaign, Craig believes he owes no apology to the detainees. “I think there’s no need for the President of the United States to apologise to anyone,” he said. “They know what his position has been and what he’s been trying to do. He worked very hard from the very first day he was there.”
When asked about Hillary Clinton’s willingness to close Guantanamo, if elected, Craig replied, “She fully supports closing Guantanamo.”
“I think there is a national consensus. Secretary Clinton is part of that consensus, that Guantanamo today does more damage to the national interest, the national image, than it does good,” he added.
Gregory Craig also drafted US President Obama’s executive order banning the use of torture, and had previously also worked as special counsel to US President Bill Clinton, when he oversaw his defence against impeachment.
UpFront, hosted by Mehdi Hasan, broadcasts on Al Jazeera English on Fridays at 19.30 GMT. Follow UpFront on Twitter @AJUpFront.
Kevin Kriedemann & Joy Sapieka
AL JAZEERA MEDIA NETWORK