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Homeland Security

Obama Addresses Efforts to Close Guantanamo

By Kent Klein
White House
20 May 2009

President Barack Obama is speaking about his efforts to close the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where some terror suspects are held. U.S. lawmakers voted Wednesday to deny Mr. Obama the money to close the prison.

The Obama administration described the address as a "major national security speech." White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had said President Obama would discuss, among other things, the steps are needed to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

"He will go through some of the decisions that we have to make, regarding how to close down Guantanamo, something that Democrats and Republicans alike agree on," Gibbs said.

"Pictures emerged in 2004, showing abuses of prisoners at Guantanamo," said Gibbs. "Mr. Obama promised during his 2008 presidential campaign to close the prison. In his first days in office, he signed an order to do so, and appointed a task force to look into details."

Senate votes no

But the U.S. Senate voted 90-6 on Wednesday to deny the president the money to close the facility. Many senators are worried that the 240 detainees held there could be transferred to prisons in the United States. Gibbs has acknowledged the lawmakers' concerns, and says Mr. Obama's plans for the prisoners are still taking shape.

"The president has not decided where some of the detainees will be transferred," he said. "Again, those are decisions that the task forces are working on, and that the president will begin to lay out and discuss tomorrow [Thursday]."

President committed to Americans' safety

Despite the uncertainty about the fate of the detainees, Gibbs says the president is committed, above all, to Americans' safety.

"The president understands that his most important job is to keep the American people safe, and that he is not going to make any decision or any judgment that imperils the safety of the American people," said Gibbs.

Some Republicans say Guantanamo should be kept open, and that abuses there have been ended. They also warn that terrorists who cannot be convicted might be set free in the U.S.

Gibbs says Guantanamo's continued existence is helping terror groups recruit new members.

Also Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. can still hold some prisoners at Guantanamo indefinitely without any charges.

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