WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama defended his decision to close the Guantanamo prison camp on Thursday and promised to work with Congress to develop a system for imprisoning detainees who can't be tried and can't be turned loose.
Obama conceded that some would end up in U.S. prisons and insisted those facilities were tough enough to house even the most dangerous inmates.
"There are no neat or easy answers here," Obama said in a speech in which he pledged anew to "clean up the mess at Guantanamo." Speaking at the National Archives, Obama said he wouldn't do anything to endanger the American people.
He noted that roughly 500 detainees already have been released by the Bush administration. There are 240 at Guantanamo now.
Obama said opening and continuing the military prison in Cuba "set back the moral authority that is America's strongest currency in the world."
Obama spoke in front of a copy of the Constitution, to members of the Judge Advocate General's Corps, diplomatic, policy and development officials and representatives of civil liberties groups.
"I can tell you that the wrong answer is to pretend like this problem will go away if we maintain an unsustainable status quo," Obama said. "As president, I refuse to allow this problem to fester. Our security interests won't permit it. Our courts won't allow it. And neither should our conscience."
Obama said his administration was in the process of studying each of the remaining Guantanamo detainees "to determine the appropriate policies for dealing with them."
"Nobody has ever escaped from one of our `supermax' prisons which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists," Obama said.
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