In an interview with Fusion on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter expressed enthusiasm that the controversial military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can be closed before President Obama leaves office.
“I have been working with the president on a proposal to do exactly that,” he told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos.
“I know that there are people… who cannot be transferred. So they have to remain in detention,” he added, citing security and safety concerns. “Therefore there has to be some other place for them to go.”
For those individuals, a separate facility within the United States would have to be set up, he said — something which is currently banned by U.S. law. This has presented one of the biggest roadblocks to meeting President Obama’s longtime promise that he would shut down the facility during his presidency.
“We will present [something] to the congress very very soon,” said Carter. “We need the agreement of congress to be able to begin the process of establishing that [kind of domestic facility].”
In recent days, the number of detainees has been dwindling, as individuals are increasingly being repatriated to their own countries, or to third nations. On the morning of the interview, 10 Yemeni prisoners were released for resettlement in Oman, bringing the prison’s population to under 100 for the first time since shortly after it opened as a military prison for the War on Terror in 2002. Many of the detainees have never been charged with a crime.
President Obama reiterated his promise in his final State of the Union address, earlier this week. “It’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies,” the president said.
Carter agreed, saying the prospect of shutting down the prison is “desirable for our national security.”
“I’d like to see that behind us so that the next president isn’t dealing with this issue,” he said.
Watch the full interview below: