Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, said the facility at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba "does create a psychological scar on our national values. Whether it should or not, it does."
President Barack Obama has yet to fulfill a promise he made six years ago, and then renewed during his 2012 re-election campaign, to close Guantanamo permanently.
Also on Sunday, 13 years to the day the first 20 detainees in the war of terror arrived in Guantanamo, protesters gathered outside of the White House; some dressed as detainees, wearing orange jumpsuits and black bags over their heads.
In the D.C. suburb of McLean, Va., two protesters were arrested on Sunday after they refused to leave former Vice President Dick Cheney’s house. The pair were among a group of about 20 protesters who said Cheney lied to the public about the use of torture at Gitmo.
— CODEPINK (@codepink) January 10, 2015
In the last 18 months, the government has transferred 39 detainees out of Guantanamo, compared to just four between July 2011 and July 2013.
The current detainee population marks the lowest since the facility opened in January 2002. At its peak, the facility housed more than 700 detainees.
In an article posted on its website on Saturday, Amnesty International urged Obama to use momentum gained from recent detainee transfers to close Guantanamo for good.
"If an abusive regime was responsible for a place of injustice like Guantanamo, it would surely draw U.S. condemnation. It's long past time for the U.S. authorities to end the double-speak – and the double standard,” the article stated.
Last month, six detainees were transferred to Uruguay. All were detained in 2002 as suspected militants with ties to al-Qaeda, but were never charged. They have been cleared for release since at least 2010, but languished as the U.S. struggled to find countries willing to accept them.
Among those who have been charged and are awaiting trial are five men accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Gen. Dempsey tasked elected officials with determining what to do with detainees who should not be released and who Congress blocks from being brought to the U.S.
According to Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, unless Obama makes a deal with Congress to lift the embargo on transferring detainees to the States, or decides he has the authority to defy Congress, Guantanamo will not close before the president leaves office.
Rosenberg told NPR that Sen. John McCain, who lobbied against Obama closing Guantanamo, is the “wildcard” in the detention center’s fate.
“If (McCain) and President Obama can find the formula for transferring (detainees) to the United States, then it closes. Otherwise, I don't know how this president makes good on that promise,” she said.