WASHINGTON The United States sent four more
detainees from the Guantanamo Bay military prison to two other
countries on Thursday, marking President Barack Obama’s final
prisoner transfers from a facility whose continued existence he
said would be judged harshly by history.
With Republican Donald Trump to be sworn in as president on
Friday and vowing to keep the prison open, Democrat Obama
whittled down the inmate population there to only 41, far short
of fulfilling his promise to close the jail dating back to his
2008 presidential campaign.
In a parting shot on an issue seen tarnishing his legacy,
Obama said U.S. lawmakers who have thwarted his efforts to shut
the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba “have abdicated their
responsibility to the American people.”
“History will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our
fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to bring it to
a responsible end,” he said in a letter to the
Republican-controlled Congress. “Once again, I encourage the
Congress to close the facility.”
It was opened by Obama’s predecessor President George W.
Bush to hold terrorism suspects who had been rounded up overseas
after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Under Bush’s administration it
came to symbolize harsh detention practices that opened the
United States to accusations of torture.
The latest transfers completed a final flurry in the waning
days of Obama’s eight-year tenure.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
four prisoners had departed but did not identify the two
countries. The White House declined comment.
Other officials had earlier told Reuters the United Arab
Emirates would be among the places taking Guantanamo inmates.
Saudi Arabia and Oman have taken 14 detainees in recent weeks.
Trump said during the election campaign that he not only
wants to keep the Guantanamo prison open but “load it up with
some bad dudes.”
The Obama administration pressed ahead, however, moving out
most of the prisoners on a list of low-level detainees deemed by
parole-style inter-agency reviews to be safe for transfer. There
were 242 prisoners when he took office.
His efforts were blocked by mostly Republican opposition in
Congress, which barred him from moving prisoners to the U.S.
mainland. Foot-dragging by Pentagon officials has also been
blamed for slowing transfers.
Obama lamented on Thursday that his opponents had “placed
politics above the ongoing costs to taxpayers, our relationships
with our allies, and the threat posed to U.S. national
Trump said this month that all those held at Guantanamo
should stay. “These are extremely dangerous people and should
not be allowed back onto the battlefield,” he tweeted.
However, the Obama administration has insisted that
intelligence shows that only a very small percentage of the
prisoners it has released have returned to militant activities.
Of the 41 prisoners left at Guantanamo, 10 face charges in
military commission proceedings, including people accused of
plotting the Sept. 11 attacks. About two dozen others have not
been charged but have been deemed too dangerous to release.
In addition, a handful of inmates previously cleared for
transfer will remain after the Obama administration failed to
make arrangements in time for their relocation.
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