After President Barack Obama agreed on Tuesday to sign a $607 billion “defense” bill that undermines his own plan to shutter the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, media outlets sounded the death knell for hopes that the facility will close before his term ends in 2017.

But Omar Shakir, a Bertha fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Common Dreams that the president, in fact, still retains the ability to close the prison—and must act now to fulfill his repeated pledges.

“Obama has been able and continues to be able to transfer the men cleared for release by every security and intelligence agency,” Shakir said over the phone from Guantánamo where he is meeting with clients. “It is in his power to accelerate the pace of periodic review boards. He has the ability through the Department of Justice to ensure that those who face trial do so in fair proceedings in federal court.”

“Obama has failed to follow through with his campaign promises and commitments to close Guantánamo by taking concrete steps while in power to articulate and execute a vision,” Shakir continued. “In the vacuum we have seen opportunistic politicians from both sides of the aisle using Guantánamo as a tool for their own purposes at the expense of the critical principles of due process and freedom, holding men without charge in indefinite detention without end.”

The National Defense Authorization Act, which was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on Tuesday, includes a ban on transferring men held in Guantánamo to U.S. prisons—a cornerstone of Obama’s plan to shutter the facility. Some, however, have argued that the congressional ban on transfers to the U.S. is constitutionally invalid.

Of the 112 men who remain, 53 have been cleared for release—83 percent of them Yemeni. Meanwhile, 49 are awaiting clearance and currently going through the periodic review process. Ten are in the military commissions system, with 7 on trial and three convicted.

The U.S. has long claimed that the location of the Guantánamo prison in Cuba allows them to detain “War On Terror” prisoners without granting them due process or legal protections, including those against torture.

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT