The White House said on Wednesday it was in the final stages of drafting a plan to close the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the widely criticised detention center for foreign terrorism suspects.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration hoped to “short circuit” opposition from Republicans in Congress who have blocked President Barack Obama from closing the prison, one of his top goals when he took office in 2009.
The prison has been the source of alleged abuses, including the waterboarding of prisoners under interrogation, and the White House says it is used as a propaganda tool for militant groups recruiting supporters to fight America.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that White House national security adviser Susan Rice had recently met with Secretary of Defence Ash Carter and presented him with a memo that said he would have 30 days to make decisions on transferring the prisoners away from Guantanamo.
But the newspaper said Carter had not made a commitment to moving the prisoners by a particular date. There are currently 116 detainees at the prison.
Clifford Sloan, Obama’s former envoy charged with closing the prison, told reporters on Tuesday that it was time to remove restrictions under current law that keep the prison from being closed.
“I think we need to finish the job of removing the very irrational restrictions that are in current law,” Sloan said in a briefing on the issue at a Washington law firm. “It’s very unfortunate, I think, that closing Guantanamo has become a partisan issue for the most part.”
Republican lawmakers have argued that transferring Guantanamo prisoners to other countries may eventually lead to their freedom and that they could become a threat to the United States.
The Republican lawmakers have also taken steps to prevent the men from being transferred to prisons in the United States.
Earnest said the White House would share the closure plan with lawmakers once it was completed.
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