US President Barack Obama urged lawmakers on 23 February to give his plan to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a "fair hearing" and said he did not want to pass the issue to his successor when he leaves the White House. The Pentagon proposal proposes 13 potential sites on US soil for the transfer of remaining detainees but does not identify the facilities or endorse a specific one, administration officials said.
When he was a candidate for the White House in 2008, Obama pledged to close the prison and move the detainees . Lawmakers largely oppose moving the prisoners to the US, though, and the US president's final attempt to get congressional backing is unlikely to gain traction.
"We can capture terrorists, protect the American people, and when done right, we can try them and put them in our maximum security prisons and it works just fine," Obama said.
The transfer and closure costs would be $290m to $475m (£207m to £340m), an administration official told reporters on a conference call. Housing remaining detainees in the US would be $65 to $85m cheaper than at the Cuba facility, the official said, so costs would be offset in three to five years.
Some 35 prisoners will be transferred from Guantanamo to other countries in 2016, leaving the final number below 60, officials said. Obama is considering closing the facility by executive order if lawmakers do not back his proposal. The plan would send detainees who have been cleared for transfer to their homelands or third countries and transfer remaining prisoners to US soil to be held in maximum-security prisons. Congress has banned such transfers to the US since 2011.