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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid