With months left in office, US President Barack Obama said Thursday he was not ready to give up on an eight-year-old promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Obama urgently wants to shutter the facility before he leaves the White House at the start of next year but his efforts have been continually thwarted by Republican lawmakers.
“I am not ready to concede that it may still remain open, because we’re still working diligently to continue to shrink the population,” Obama said at a press conference in Laos.
Speaking in the capital Vientiane during the final trip to east Asia of his eight-year presidency, Obama said the controversial prison served as a “recruitment tool” for terrorist organisations and was a waste of money.
“As we continue to shrink the population to the point where we’re looking at 40 or 50 people and are maintaining a multimillion dollar operation to house these people, the American people are asking why should we spend this money on this when it could be spent on other things,” he told reporters.
In recent months the US has accelerated the rate at which detainees who have been approved for transfer are released from the US military-run facility, which sits on a remote chunk of land on the tip of southeastern Cuba.
In August, fifteen Guantanamo Bay detainees were transferred to the United Arab Emirates, the largest such release in years.
That batch included 12 Yemenis, who the Pentagon had struggled relocate to a third country as they can’t go home because of the ongoing civil war.
Afghan national Obaidullah who had been detained for 14 years without trial was also released with that group.
Roughly 780 men have passed through the facility since it was opened in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to hold terror suspects.
The population now stands at 61, down from 242 when Obama took office in January 2009.
Obama wants to send the remaining inmates, who are deemed to be the most dangerous, for incarceration in the US — but that is an extreme long shot given Republican opposition.
In February, the president presented Congress with a new closure plan for Guantanamo but Republicans resisted.
November’s election will likely help determine the future of the notorious prison, as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has vowed to fill Guantanamo with “bad dudes” should he win the White House.
To date, just 10 of the remaining detainees face criminal trial, including the “9/11 Five” — led by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who are accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Former inmates who are transferred are usually freed subject to supervision and undergoing rehabilitation programmes.
Republicans are treating voters like ‘children’ with their defense of Trump: Ex-presidential adviser
On Thursday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," former presidential adviser David Gergen laid into Republican lawmakers for claiming that the impeachment probe is only based on "hearsay."
"The Republicans are treating us like idiots," said Gergen. "They just — they say you're only bringing forth hearsay. You don't have any firsthand information. We know there are three people who know exactly what happened. One is named [Rudy] Giuliani. One is chief of staff [Mick] Mulvaney and the third is [John] Bolton. And what's happened here? They all three have been called. The president said no, you must not talk. So the Republicans then come up and say, well, you only have hearsay."
Roger Stone’s health in question as prosecutors have him ‘dead to rights’: NBC reporter
Jurors deciding the fate of longtime Donald Trump political advisor Roger Stone did not reach a verdict during their deliberations on Thursday and will reconvene on Friday morning.
But there were fascinating details from the courtroom revealed by NBC News correspondent Ken Dilanian.
"What about Roger Stone, does he look like he’s about to burn here?" MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews asked. "Does he look like he’s going down?"
"He does," Dilanian replied.
"And also, physically, he doesn't look well at this trial. He’s walking around the courthouse kind of unaccompanied, shambling around," he continued. "He doesn't look like a happy warrior, which is usually his persona."
GOP lawmaker smacked down after suggesting impeachment is only for capital crimes
On Thursday's edition of MSNBC's "All In," Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) tried to argue that impeachment is only intended for when presidents commit capital crimes — and was immediately corrected by anchor Chris Hayes.
"I saw an earlier interview you gave to Chuck Todd where you didn’t think this was, so far, from what you’ve heard of, the level of impeachable behavior," said Hayes. "I’m curious what you view the standard as the Constitution sets out for you as being high crimes and treason and misdemeanor."
"Crimes that are subject to the penalty of death is essentially what the Constitution is to me indicating with impeachment," said Reed. "And this whole claim of bribery, the American people aren’t stupid, Chris. This is not going to sustain the review of the American people, and they’re the ultimate ones who are going to judge this because I don’t see this becoming an impeachable subject to the removal of the president."