News / USA

Obama Renews Pledge to Close Guantanamo Prison

President Barack Obama talks about national security, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington.
President Barack Obama talks about national security, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington.
Kent Klein
President Barack Obama pledged Thursday to renew his attempts to close the controversial U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The president announced his plan in an hourlong, wide-ranging speech on U.S. counterterrorism policy.

Obama first promised to close Guantanamo when he ran for president in 2008.  On his third day in office in 2009, he signed an order to close the facility within the year.

Later that year, the U.S. Senate blocked the funding needed to transfer or release prisoners from the camp.  And in 2011, the president signed a defense spending bill which restricted the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the mainland or other countries, forcing the facility to remain open.

In Thursday’s comprehensive address, Obama said his administration is committed to prosecuting alleged terrorists whenever possible. He called the detention of terror suspects without charge at Guantanamo “a glaring exception” which is damaging America’s global image.

“The original premise for opening GTMO - that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention - was found unconstitutional five years ago.  In the meantime, GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.  Our allies will not cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at GTMO,” Obama said.

The president called on Congress to lift the restrictions it placed on transferring detainees from Guantanamo to other countries or imprisoning them in the United States.  

Obama asked the Defense Department to designate a location in the U.S. where military commissions could be held.  The president also said he is appointing a senior envoy to the State and Defense Departments who will work to transfer detainees to other countries.

The president said he would lift the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, to allow each case to be reviewed individually.  And he committed to trying terror suspects in U.S. civilian and military courts, where appropriate.

There are 166 prisoners still at Guantanamo.  Eighty-six have been approved for transfer as long as security restrictions are met.  More than 100 of the prisoners are on a hunger strike to protest their detention, and about 30 are being force-fed.

Toward the end of the speech, when he addressed the Guantanamo issue, Obama was interrupted repeatedly by an anti-war heckler.  The president acknowledged her as he made his case for closing the camp.  

“Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike.  I am willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack, because it is worth being passionate about.  Is this who we are?,” Obama said.

At Human Rights Watch, counterterrorism adviser Laura Pitter says she believes the hunger strikers forced U.S. officials to revisit the Guantanamo issue.

“Well, the hunger strike has really put the issue of closing Guantanamo back on the political agenda.  It is unfortunate that the detainees had to resort to such drastic measures and desperate measures in order to get the attention of the administration and Congress again,” Pitter said.

President Obama has been criticized at home and around the world for failing to close Guantanamo.  He also has faced domestic opposition for proposing the detention of terror suspects on U.S. soil.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: williambtm from: Australia
May 24, 2013 9:09 AM
Tis really the simplest matter to close down Guantanamo, first ignore the objectors, (maybe 3% of the US of A population) then just announce close this place down in 1 weeks time!

How hard is it, really?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs