US Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] said at a congressional hearing Thursday that Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] is unlikely to be closed [video] because of security concerns. Responding to a question from the Senate Armed Forces Committee [official website], Gates said that the odds of closing the detention facility are "very, very low," particularly because of congressional opposition, the difficulty in predicting which detainees are likely to return to terrorist activities and restrictions on detainees being brought to the US for trial under the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 [HR 6523]. Gates made his comments one day after CIA Director Leon Panetta [official profile] told Congress that, if captured, Osama bin Laden [JURIST news archive] and his second-in-command would probably be sent to Guantanamo Bay [WP report]. At his first press briefing on Wednesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney [WP profile] said that President Barack Obama still aims to close Guantanamo [briefing text], despite Panetta's comments.
The Obama administration continues its push to close the Guantanamo Bay facility, despite running into several hurdles in closing the prison, including the suspension of detainee transfers to Yemen and a new law barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees [JURIST reports] to the US for trial. Earlier this month, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] used the death of a Guantanamo detainee to highlight what it claims are problems with the detention system [JURIST report] currently used by the US for dealing with suspected terrorists. In January, Human Rights Watch criticized Obama [JURIST report] for failing to shut down the facility as he promised during the 2008 presidential campaign. In an effort to reduce the population at the facility, the US has been transferring detainees to other countries. There are currently 178 detainees awaiting transfer from Guantanamo.