Outgoing US President Barack Obama has expressed regret that he could not close the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention center during his eight years in office due to the hurdles posed by the Congress.
“With respect to Guantanamo, it is true that I have not been able to close the darn thing because of the congressional restrictions that have been placed on us,” Obama, 55, told reporters at a White House news conference.
“What is also true is we have greatly reduced the population. You now have significantly less than a hundred people there. There are some additional transfers that may be taking place over the next two months,” he said.
“There is a group of very dangerous people that we have strong evidence of having been guilty of committing terrorist acts against the United States. But because of the nature of the evidence, in some cases, that evidence being compromised, it’s very difficult to put them before a typical Article III court,” he added.
The group has always been the biggest challenge for the US, he said.
“My strong belief and preference is that we would be much better off closing Gitmo, moving them to a different facility that was clearly governed by US jurisdiction. We’d do it a lot cheaper and just as safely,” he said.
“Congress disagrees with me, and I gather that the President-elect does, as well. We will continue to explore options for doing that,” Obama said.
“Keep in mind that it’s not just a matter of what I’m willing to do. One of the things you discover about being President is that there are all these rules and norms and laws, and you got to pay attention to them. The people who work for you are also subject to those rules and norms. That’s a piece of advice that I gave to the incoming President,” he said.
Obama said he was very proud of the fact that he is leaving the administration without any major scandal.
“We’ve made mistakes, there have been screw-ups, but I will put the ethics of this administration and our track record in terms of just abiding by the rules and norms, and keeping trust with the American people – I will put this administration against any administration in history,” he asserted.
“The reason is because we listened to the lawyers. We had a strong White House Counsel’s Office. We had a strong Ethics Office. We had people in every agency whose job it was to remind people, this is how you’re supposed to do things.
“It doesn’t mean everybody always did everything exactly the way it’s supposed to – because we got 2 million people working in the federal government, if you’re including the military, and so we had to just try to institutionalise this as much as we could. And that takes a lot of work,” Obama said.