Defense secretary 'not confident' Guantanamo will be closed

Defense secretary 'not confident' Guantanamo will be closed
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Defense Secretary Ashton Carter cast doubt Tuesday on whether the Guantanamo Bay detention facility can be closed before President Obama leaves office. 

"I'm not confident, but I am hopeful," Carter said in an exclusive interview with CBS News. 


The closure of the U.S. military prison in Cuba was a campaign promise Obama made in 2008, but Congress has imposed restrictions on detainee releases through annual defense policy bills. 

Carter said earlier this month he was working on a proposal to send to Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

McCain has said he is willing to work with the administration to close the facility if the administration submits a plan that can be approved by Congress. 

"I think we'll have a good proposal, and I think we're hoping it wins the support it needs in Congress so that we can move forward," Carter said. 

Carter said not every detainee in Guantanamo can be freed, indicating some would have to be transferred to the U.S. or to some other detention facility.

"We have to be very clear. There are people in Guantanamo Bay who cannot and should not be released because they will return to the terrorist fight," he said.

"And therefore we need a place where we can detain them in the long term. We have been forbidden to create such a place in U.S. territory."

Carter said McCain indicated he'd be receptive to considering a plan to allow them to come to the U.S. 

"I think that's very desirable. And I think it would be nice to do that before the end of President Obama's administration so that the next president doesn't have to deal with this situation," he said. 

Carter also said the very existence of the facility is "an extra talking point" for jihadi propagandists and "it would be good to eliminate that."

It is "very expensive for the Defense Department to operate Gitmo. I would prefer to not have that expense," he added.

McCain said Carter may be worried that Congress will not approve the plan but that he could help argue in favor of it if certain conditions were met. 

"If I can show that it's a secure place that is run by [the Defense Department] ... I think I have a strong argument with my colleagues," he said.