President Faces Difficulties Closing Guantanamo Prison

13 January, 2015

In 2014, the United States removed 28 detainees from its military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It marks the largest number of prisoners moved out of Guantanamo since 2009, the year Barack Obama was sworn-in as president.

On December 30, the Obama administration announced that five Guantanamo prisoners were sent to Kazakhstan. Presidential spokesman Josh Earnest says getting all the detainees out of Guantanamo remains a goal for President Obama.

"I can tell you that it continues to be an important priority of this administration to ultimately transfer all of the detainees out of Guantanamo. "

The president has long said he wants to close down the detention center. He spoke about this goal in a May 2013 speech at the National Defense University. Mr. Obama said there is "no justification" for the prison.

"Given my administration's relentless pursuit of al-Qaida's leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should have never have been opened."

Nearly half of the more than 120 prisoners still held at Guantanamo have been approved for release. But, a 2010 law that bans the transfer of prisoners to the United States makes the center's closure more difficult.

Mathew Levitt is an expert on terrorism at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He says politics is one reason why Guantanamo prisoners are not being tried in U.S. courts.

"I think the court system is capable. I think that our prison system is capable. I don't think it would put Americans at any more risk than we are now. It has become a political football."

Right now, the cost of keeping the detention center open is rising. With the number of prisoners decreasing, it now costs the United States nearly $3 million a year per prisoner.

But Matthew Levitt says lawmakers should not use cost as the reason for closing the prison. They should close Guantanamo, he says, because it is the right thing to do.

I'm Christopher Cruise.

VOA White House Correspondent Aru Pande reported this story. Ashley Thompson wrote it for VOA Learning English. Christopher Cruise read and produced the program. George Grow edited the story.


Words in This Story

priorityn. something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or be dealt with first

justificationn. an acceptable reason for doing something

political footballidiomatic a problem that politicians from different political parties argue about and try to use in order to get an advantage for themselves

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