Pentagon to submit plan to Congress detailing closure of Guantanamo naval prison

By Doug G. Ware  |  Feb. 22, 2016 at 5:00 PM
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ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Defense will submit a proposal by Tuesday to close the controversial Guantanamo Bay naval prison in Cuba -- a move President Barack Obama has promised was coming from nearly his first day in office -- officials said.

Administration officials have been batting around ideas to close the prison for years, but the effort has picked up additional steam over the last year.

Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said it will submit the plan to Congress by Tuesday -- the deadline for proposals on the endeavor.

"We understand that the deadline is tomorrow, and it's our intent to meet it," U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said.

"The plan is to submit to Congress what our thoughts are on the issue and what we see is a way ahead necessary to achieve the closure of Guantanamo and to specifically point out the need for legislative relief," he added.

The Cuban detention center began generating controversy since virtually the day it opened following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Over the years, dozens of suspected "enemy combatants" were incarcerated at the facility.

Reports of detainee abuse, torture and the lack of formal charges against some detainees drew criticism from the national and international communities. Years later, officials in the George W. Bush administration faced increased condemnation when some of the supposed interrogation methods -- like waterboarding, or simulated drowning -- were made public.

Most of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were ultimately tried or transferred, but a small number of inmates, 91, are still captive there, which has made closing the prison difficult. Federal officials aren't sure where to send the remaining suspects, though, as staunch opposition has surfaced and resisted sending the inmates to any U.S. prison, out of national security concerns.

Since taking office in 2009, Obama's administration has transferred 151 inmates at Guantanamo to other countries.

The Pentagon said Monday that is a key question Defense officials are trying to overcome.

"We are going to continue to transfer detainees to other countries who agree to take them, and take steps to ensure that the threat they pose to the U.S. is limited," Davis said. "We will continue to prosecute those who can be prosecuted. ... There's this small group of individuals that can neither be safely transferred nor prosecuted. And, [the plan] will address those three things and lay out a range of options."

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