White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough [official profile] told [Fox News report] Fox News Sunday that President Barack Obama [official profile] intends to fulfill his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility before leaving office. The statement was made in an interview previewing the president’s final State of the Union address Tuesday evening. The president has pledged to close the facility for years and says he feels an obligation to his successor to complete the project. The facility on the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay was opened following the events of September 11, 2001, to remove terrorists and suspected terrorists from action, but the president believes it is no longer necessary, especially considering the extremely high cost of operation. McDonough said Obama is certain he can close the facility while maintaining the security of Americans.
The Obama administration has promised to close Guantanamo but has struggled due to Congressional opposition to relocating detainees to the US, as well as the slow process of transferring prisoners to other countries. This month there have been multiple detainees released from Guantanamo, with 14 more detainees on the schedule for release this month [JURIST report]. In November the US Senate passed [JURIST report] the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA) [text, PDF], which prohibits Guantanamo detainees from being transferred into the US. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law, despite the fact that it will delay his plan to close the prison. The NDAA comes after the Department of Defense said [JURIST report] they were sending teams to review three Colorado prisons as part of Obama’s efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in October. The Guantanamo Review Task Force (GRTF) was created in response to a 2009 presidential executive order [text, PDF] to review the status of all detainees. In September White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest said Obama was considering a “wide array” of options [JURIST report] for closing the prison.