WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- President Obama signed the Defense Authorization Act Thursday, but hinted he may work around some restrictions on the Guantanamo detention facility.
The facility at the U.S.Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay,Cuba, houses about 150 terror detainees. Obama repeatedly has tried to close the facility, but has run into congressional roadblocks.
The president said the new act loosens restrictions on sending detainees back to their home countries, but keeps restrictions against bringing them to facilities in the United States.
"The detention facility at Guantanamo continues to impose significant costs on the American people," the president said in a statement from the White House. "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 [two relevant sections of the law] operate in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles, my administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict."
Obama praised provisions in the act because they "will provide pay and bonuses for our service members, enhance counter-terrorism initiatives abroad, build the security capacity of key partners, and expand efforts to prevent sexual assault and strengthen protections for victims."
As for the detention facility, Obama said he has "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."