The president said al Qaeda operatives still use the facility as a recruiting tool and “as a justification for attacks against the United States.”
“There's no reason for us to give them that kind of talking point when, in fact, we can use the various mechanisms of our justice system to prosecute these folks and to make sure that they never attack us again,” Obama said.
Obama said he remains convinced that most of the alleged terrorists being detained at the facility can be tried in civilian courts, but he did not offer a timeline for when that might start to happen.
“I am absolutely convinced that the American justice system is strong enough that we should be able to convict people who murdered innocent Americans, who carried out terrorist attacks against us,” Obama said. “We should be able to lock them up and make sure that they don't see light of day.”
When the Justice Department announced plans last year to try Khalid Sheik-Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, in New York City, an all-around backlash forced the administration to retreat.
On Friday, Obama stood behind his belief that Mohammed should be tried in a civilian court, but acknowledged that there are several instances where military tribunals are more appropriate.
“I think [Mohammed’s trial] needs to happen,” Obama said. “And we're going to work with members of Congress, and this is going to have to be on a bipartisan basis, to move this forward in a way that is consistent with our standards of due process; consistent with our Constitution; consistent also with our image in the world of — of a country that cares about rule of law.”
Obama acknowledged the issue of closing the facility and trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts “has generated a lot of political rhetoric, and people, understandably, you know, are fearful.
“But one of the things that I think is worth reflecting on after 9/11 is, you know, this country is so resilient, we are so tough, we can't be frightened by a handful of people who are trying to do us harm, especially when we've captured them and we've got the goods on them,” Obama said.