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Biden aims to close Guantanamo Bay during his term

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It was a goal of his former boss that was never fulfilled, and now President Biden’s administration is taking it up - closing Guantanamo Bay.

On Friday the White House said it is launching a formal review of the U.S. military prison in Cuba with the goal of closing it by the time he leaves office.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki: Reporter: “Will Guantanamo Bay be closed by the time President Biden leaves office?”

Psaki: “Well that is certainly our goal and our intention… So we are undertaking a NSC process which is how it should work to work with the inter-agencies to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration.”

Opened under President George W. Bush and set up to house foreign suspects following the Sept. 11th attacks, the offshore jail came to symbolize the excesses of the U.S. “war on terror” because of the harsh interrogation methods that critics say amounted to torture.

The prison's population grew to a peak of about 800 inmates before it started to shrink.

Former President Obama whittled down the number further but his effort to close the prison was stymied largely by Republican opposition in Congress.

President Trump kept the prison open during his four years in the White House. Now, 40 prisoners remain, most held for nearly two decades without being charged or tried.

Two people familiar with the matter told Reuters that aides involved in internal discussions are considering an executive action to be signed by Biden in coming weeks or months, signaling a new effort to remove what human rights advocates have called a stain on America’s global image.

And people familiar with the matter say a revived Guantanamo strategy is expected to focus initially on further decreasing the number of prisoners by repatriating them or finding other countries to accept them.

But even with his own Democratic party now controlling Congress, their majorities are so slim that Biden would face a tough challenge securing legislative changes because some Democrats might also oppose them.

Video Transcript

- It was a goal of his former boss that was never fulfilled, and now President Biden's administration is taking it up, closing Guantanamo Bay. On Friday, the White House said it is launching a formal review of the US military prison in Cuba with the goal of closing it by the time he leaves office. White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki.

- Will Guantanamo Bay be closed by the time President Biden leaves office?

JEN PSAKI: Well that certainly is our goal and our intention.

So we are undertaking an NSC process, which is how it should work, through-- to work with the inter-- inter-agency, I should say-- to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has-- what we've inherited from the previous administration.

- Opened under President George W. Bush and set up to house foreign suspects following the September 11th attacks, the offshore jail came to symbolize the excesses of the US war on terror because of the harsh interrogation methods that critics say amounted to torture.

The prison's population grew to a peak of about 800 inmates before it started to shrink. Former President Obama whittled down the number further, but his effort to close the prison was stymied largely by Republican opposition in Congress. Former President Trump kept the prison open during his four years in the White House. Now 40 prisoners remain, most held for nearly two decades without being charged or tried.

Two people familiar with the matter told Reuters that aides involved in internal discussions are considering an executive action to be signed by Biden in coming weeks or months, signaling a new effort to remove what human rights advocates have called a stain on America's global image.

And people familiar with the matter say a revived Guantanamo strategy is expected to focus initially on further decreasing the number of prisoners by repatriating them or finding other countries to accept them.

But even with his own Democratic party now controlling Congress, their majorities are so slim that Biden would face a tough challenge securing legislative changes because some Democrats might also oppose them.