Washington – Echoing his statements during his 2008 presidential campaign, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to try again to close down the prison for terrorist suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba during a press conference Tuesday.
Obama says he's asked a team of officials to review the issue and will take it back to Congress again. He told a news conference Tuesday he's not surprised there are problems at the facility, where 100 of the 166 inmates are on a hunger strike.
Obama ordered the detention center closed upon taking office, but Congress thwarted him and made it harder to move prisoners elsewhere. Releases and transfers have since become rare, giving detainees little hope of ever being released.
“It’s not sustainable,” Mr. Obama said at a White House news conference, according to the New York Times. “The notion that we’re going to keep 100 individuals in no man’s land in perpetuity,” he added, made no sense. “All of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this?”
While Obama mentioned the high costs of maintaining the facility and the foreign policy it raises, he was ambiguous on the details of the closure, namely where the prisoners would go and what to do with those inmates too dangerous to let go but unable to be feasibly prosecuted.
During the press conference Obama also mentioned the policy of indefinite wartime detentions now that the conflict in Iraq has come to an end, Afghanistan is the midst of a withdrawal and the prime terrorist suspects in al-Qaida have been decimated.
“The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried,” he said, “That is contrary to who we are, contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.”
In terms of the hunger strike, Obama still said he supported force feeding the inmates at Guantánamo Bay who refused to eat.
“I don’t want these individuals to die,” he said.
The Guantánamo Bay detention camp is located on the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba and was opened in July of 2002 by the Bush Administration to hold detainees who it deemed were opponents in the U.S. War on Terror.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.