In his final State of the Union address this year, President Obama repeated his call to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo. It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies,” he said. But as Obama’s presidency comes to its end, he has fallen short of that goal.
The prison, which is located in southeastern Cuba, opened under President George W. Bush’s administration as part of his war on terror. Over time, it has held 780 detainees. In 2006, Bush expressed a desire to shut down the detention center, which has been criticized for its interrogation methods. Calls for closing the prison increased during the 2008 election between John McCain and Barack Obama. Obama in particular made the closure of the facility a central tenet of his campaign. But officials warned then that pledges to shut down the detention center would be difficult to fulfill.
Those warnings proved accurate. Obama has repeatedly pushed plans to close the prison, without much success. This year, he sent a plan to Congress outlining where the remaining detainees could be transferred. He argued that keeping the prison in operation “is contrary to our values.” Congressional Republicans quickly denounced the effort. And this week, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration “intends to transfer 17 or 18 Guantanamo detainees.” If the plan is executed as intended, only 41 or 42 inmates will remain at the detention center. But the number falls short of what Obama had hoped when he first came into office.