The White House has entered the "final stages" of drafting a plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Obama's efforts to shut the military installation had been stymied by opponents for years.
A White House spokesman said the administration was in the "final stages" of drafting its latest plan to close the notorious prison known for holding terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration hoped to "short circuit" opposition from Republicans in Congress who have blocked President Barack Obama from closing the prison - one of his top goals when he took office in 2009.
Republican lawmakers have previously argued that transferring Guantanamo prisoners to other countries may eventually lead to their freedom and that they could become a threat to the United States.
But Earnest said that closing Guantanamo remained a top priority, and explained that it was a waste to spend more than $100 million per year on a prison holding only 116 detainees. He confirmed that the White House would share the closure plan with lawmakers once it was completed.
"This is complicated work, but we've made a lot of important progress," he said. "It is a priority of the president. He believes it is in our clear national security interests to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay."
Earnest added that terrorists used Guantanamo Bay's negative reputation around the world as a recruiting tool. The prison has been the source of alleged abuses, including the practice of waterboarding prisoners during interrogation.
30 days to transfer prisoners
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has 30 days to move prisoners from Guantanamo - if the White House strategy goes according to plan
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that White House national security adviser Susan Rice had recently met with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, presenting him with a memo, which said he would have 30 days to make decisions on transferring the prisoners away from Guantanamo.
But the newspaper added that Carter had not made a commitment to moving the prisoners by any particular date or to any particular set of locations.
The prison at the US military base in Cuba had been opened by President George W. Bush with the intention to hold terrorist suspects who were considered non-state combatants. Some 800 terrorist suspects captured abroad, many allegedly associated with al Qaeda and with Taliban fighters, have been detained there since 2002.
ss/bw (AP, Reuters, dpa)