Obama: Lift Guantánamo transfer restrictions this year

President Obama called on Congress to lift the restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantánamo Bay in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Obama said with the Afghanistan war ending, Congress should stop blocking transfer restrictions at Guantánamo so he can finally shutter the detention facility.

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“With the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantánamo Bay — because we [conduct] counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world,” Obama said in his speech.

Closing Guantánamo was one of the first pledges Obama during his first term, but he has been frequently stymied by Congress from moving detainees out of the prison or to build any new facilities on U.S. soil.

Last year, Obama said his administration would make a new effort to close the prison, and it has ramped up transfers of cleared detainees to foreign countries in the past few months.

He lifted a moratorium on transferring detainees to Yemen, which had been in place since 2010, though no detainees had yet been moved there.

In his speech Tuesday, the president tied closing Guantánamo with the country moving “off a permanent war footing.”

He said he has imposed prudent limits on the use of drones, for instance, and would work with Congress to reform surveillance programs that have been heavily criticized.

“Even as we aggressively pursue terrorist networks — through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners — America must move off a permanent war footing,” he said. The effort to close Guantánamo still faces many significant obstacles.

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) did loosen some restrictions on transferring detainees to foreign countries, but it maintained a prohibition on moving detainees to U.S. soil or building any new facilities in the United States.

There are 155 detainees still at Guantánamo Bay.

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