“It will be very, very difficult for us to achieve that goal [of closing Guantanamo prison] before the President [Obama] leaves office, as long as Congress continues to block that path,” Earnest said.
Earnest said that President Obama’s review conducted when he first took office found that many of the Guantanamo inmates were cleared for transfer to other countries “without posing a significant risk to US interests.”
However, 127 inmates still remain at the Guantanamo prison facility.
In December, the US Congress passed a $577 defense authorization bill, which President Obama signed into law, prohibiting the Department of Defense from transferring prisoners from Guantanamo.
Since November, the United States has released 28 Guantanamo detainees to countries including Afghanistan, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia and Kazakhstan, leaving 127 prisoners left at the detention facility. Some have even remained at the prison for years despite having been cleared for release.
The detention facility, located in Cuba, has been the subject of harsh criticism by human rights groups, governments and media since its establishment in 2002. Health workers, inspectors and former detainees have described the conditions at the camp as cruel and inhumane, and have reported numerous acts of torture.