Obama defends plans to close Guantanamo
US President Barack Obama on Friday defended plans to close the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, saying facilities on US soil were capable of holding the detainees from the war on terrorism, dpa reported.
Obama was seeking to rebuff opposition from members of Congress who argue that transferring the prisoners to the United States could pose a security threat.
"We've got people who engaged in terrorist attacks who are in our prisons - maximum security prisons all across the country," Obama said, noting that none have ever escaped.
The Obama administration missed its self-imposed deadline of closing Guantanamo by January, a failure that Obama attributed to the "difficult" politics surrounding the issue.
"We have succeeded on delivering a lot of campaign promises that we made. One where we've fallen short is closing Guantanamo," Obama said. "I wanted to close it sooner. We have missed that deadline. It's not for lack of trying. It's because the politics of it are difficult."
The Guantanamo prison at the remote US naval base in Cuba still holds more than 170 prisoners, down significantly from the hundreds once held there. Dozens are expected to face trials while most of the others have been designated for release to another country.
But the Obama administration has struggled to find countries willing to take prisoners. In defending his decision to close Guantanamo, Obama also cited the high cost of operating the facility and said al-Qaeda is still using the image of Guantanamo to justify attacks and drive recruitment efforts.
"There's no reason for us to give them that kind of talking point when, in fact, we can use the various mechanisms of our justice system to prosecute these folks and to make sure that they never attack us again," he said.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and four co-defendants remain incarcerated at Guantanamo. Plans to try them in a civilian court rather than the controversial military commissions have been put on hold over political opposition.