During a press conference on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he was still committed to closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison facility in Cuba, one of his 2008 campaign promises.
“I continue to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo,” he said. “I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us, in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”
Congress has repeatedly included provision in the annual defense spending bill that prohibit the Obama administration from transferring Guantanamo detainees to the United States or to foreign countries, forcing the controversial facility to remain open. Obama threatened to veto the “must pass” legislation due to the provisions, but so far has not carried out his threat.
“I’m gonna reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interest of the American people,” he said. “And it’s not sustainable. I mean, the notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, and we’re having success defeating al Qaeda core, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these trans-national terrorist networks.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the most prominent opponents of Guantanamo, praised the President for his remarks. Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, said there were immediate steps Obama could take to close the prison.
“There are two things the president should do,” he explained. “One is to appoint a senior point person so that the administration’s Guantánamo closure policy is directed by the White House and not by Pentagon bureaucrats. The president can also order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer detainees who have been cleared, which is more than half the Guantánamo population.”
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