Biden aired the grievances in a statement after signing the crucial National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that provides billions of dollars in funding for the Department of Defense.
The president praised the legislation for providing “vital benefits” for military personnel but took issue with section 1032 and 1033—measures he said bar the use of funds to transfer Guantánamo Bay detainees to the custody of other countries and into the United States unless certain criteria is reached.
“It is the longstanding position of the executive branch that these provisions unduly impair the ability of the executive branch to determine when and where to prosecute Guantánamo Bay detainees and where to send them upon release,” Biden said.
Biden said the limitations imposed by the provisions may make it hard to comply with court decisions or negotiate with other countries over the transfer of detainees without threatening national security.
“I urge the Congress to eliminate these restrictions as soon as possible,” he added.
Less than 40 prisoners remain at Guantanamo Bay, though the camp has held nearly 800 men since it was established during George W. Bush‘s administration after the Sept. 1, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Associated Press reported in September that most of the men currently at the site haven’t been charged with a crime.
The White House has supported shuttering Guantanamo Bay, and in July the administration transferred its first detainee out of the wartime prison. Abdul Latif Nasser, 56, was first recommended for discharge during the Obama years and was released to his home country of Morocco.
Earlier this year, more than 20 Democratic senators urged Biden to take certain steps to close the site, stating that with “sufficient political will and swift action” the president could finish what other administrations had tried to do.
“As a symbol of lawlessness and human rights abuses, the detention facility continues to harm U.S. national security by serving as a propaganda tool for America’ enemies and continues to hinder counterterrorism efforts and cooperation with allies,” the lawmakers wrote.
Newsweek has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International, two human rights groups opposed to Guantanamo Bay, for comment on the National Defense Authorization Act provisions.