Obama Promises to Try Closing Guantánamo Again

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Photo: Saul LOEB/AFP PHOTO/Getty

At a press conference today marking the 100th day of his second term, President Obama said once again that the American prison at Guantánamo Bay should close, but without the forcefulness of, say, his failed executive order from 2009. "I am going to go back at this," Obama vowed this afternoon. "I'm going to reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people." At least 100 of the 166 detainees being held at the camp are currently on hunger strike — which does not sound pleasant for anyone involved — in a crisis that's growing increasingly difficult to ignore. "This is a lingering problem that is not going to get better," the president said. "It's going to get worse."

Mother Jones has a detailed look today at the stalemate between the Obama administration and Congress, which "has done everything it can short of making transfers illegal to prevent the administration from sending Gitmo detainees elsewhere." As the Washington Post reported last week, 86 prisoners have been cleared for transfer, "but haven't been because of diplomatic and political hurdles," as absurd as that sounds. 

Continuing the growing wave of horrible press for the prison, Slate today published excerpts from the 466-page memoir of Mohamedou Ould Slahi. "Detainees were not allowed to talk to each other, but we enjoyed looking at each other," he begins. "The punishment for talking was hanging the detainee by his hands with the feet barely touching the ground."

A lasting fear, of course, is that a released detainee could go on to commit an act of terrorism — years in captivity without charge could even be said to breed resentment — but Obama insisted today, "The idea that we would still detain forever a group of individuals that have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, that is contrary to our interests and it has to stop."