President Obama in an interview broadcast Sunday vowed he would do everything in his power to close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, but stopped short of declaring that he’d succeed in closing the controversial facility by the end of his second term.
“I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it,” Obama said. “It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held. It is contrary to our values and it is wildly expensive.”
The president added that the U.S. had already “drawn down the population there significantly.”
On Saturday, the Pentagon announced it had transferred four additional detainees back to Afghanistan, bringing the total population there down to 131.
“We are going to continue to place those who have been cleared for release or transfer to host countries that are willing to take them,” Obama said.
Still, the president acknowledged “a certain irreducible number” that would be hard to transfer out of the facility.
“We know they've done something wrong and they are still dangerous, but it's difficult to mount the evidence in a traditional Article 3 court,” he said. “You know, so we're going to have to wrestle with that.”
While Obama has intensified efforts to close the prison unilaterally through detainee transfers, full closure of the prison has been complicated by Congress’s repeated refusal to authorize moving prisoners to facilities on U.S. soil.
The $585 billion Defense authorization bill Obama signed on Friday included similar language, prompting a signing statement Obama arguing that “under certain circumstances” they would “violate constitutional separation of powers principles.”
“The Guantánamo detention facility's continued operation undermines our national security. We must close it,” Obama said. "I call on members from both sides of the aisle to work with us to bring this chapter of American history to a close.