President Obama said Thursday he’s still determined to close the prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before the end of his presidency.
Asked if he’ll be forced to turn over the problem to his successor, Mr. Obama told NPR, “Not if I can help it.”
“I’m going to keep on pushing because I want to make sure that when I turn the keys over to the next president, that they have the ability, that he or she has the capacity to make some decisions with a relatively clean slate,” Mr. Obama said.
In the interview, the president said closing the Gitmo facility is “a hard problem.”
“It’s a tough legal problem. It’s a tough security problem,” he said. “In some cases, it’s hard to return prisoners because the countries where they come from don’t want them or can’t provide us assurances that they can control them.”
Mr. Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008 on a pledge to close Gitmo, but he’s run into firm opposition in Congress to the idea of holding U.S. civilian trials for some of the prisoners.
In his foreign policy speech Wednesday at West Point, the president said he will “continue to push to close Gitmo, because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders.”
Mr. Obama told NPR he is using “every possible available avenue” to return prisoners to their countries of origin. He said holding prisoners indefinitely without trial “feeds terrorist propaganda.”
“And it is wildly expensive,” Mr. Obama said. “I mean, we spend 10, 15 times more, in many cases, for these prisoners than we would do in a normal supermax system — prison in our federal system. So for all kinds of reasons, it doesn’t make sense.”