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30 Apr, 2013 19:58

Obama says Guantanamo must close, vows to ‘re-engage with Congress’

Obama says Guantanamo must close, vows to ‘re-engage with Congress’

US President Barack Obama has pledged to re-engage with Congress in an effort to shut the Guantanamo Bay prison. He also praised Russia for being “very cooperative” in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

In his first public response to the ongoing hunger strike at the Cuban-based US detention camp, Obama reaffirmed his commitment to closing the facility, saying “it is not a surprise” there are “problems in Guantanamo.”

“It is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed,” the US President said in his Tuesday speech.

The White House administration will “review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo,” Obama said, promising to “re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people.”

Responding to the question of the force-feeding of at least 21 of the 100 Guantanamo inmates, the President said he believes the “Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can,” adding that he doesn’t want “these individuals to die.”

Obama stressed that justice has been served in a way “consistent with rule of law” and the American constitution, as he went on to list US’ achievements in the fight against terrorism.

However, the US President said the prosecution of terrorists should be getting “wiser.” 

Terrorism, Obama said, is “a lingering problem that is not going to get better… it’s going to fester.”

US President Barack Obama speaks alongside First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington on April 30, 2013 (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

Russia ‘cooperating fully’ on counterterrorism

Turning to the Boston bombing investigation, President Obama spoke of his phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, in which he praised “the close cooperation that the United States has received from Russia on the Boston marathon attack.”

Russia, Obama said, is committed to “cooperating fully in not only this investigation but… on counterterrorism issues generally.”

Although there’re still “suspicions” between Russian and American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the relations are improving, and the Russian side has recently been “very cooperative,” the President stressed.

Obama also confirmed the US will review whether any sensitive intelligence was missed that could have prevented the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, which killed three and injured more than 260 people.

The President went on defend the US security and intelligence agencies, saying both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security “did what it was supposed to be doing” as regards to the bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Russia asked to investigate the elder of the Tsarnaev brothers years before the Boston attack.

“It’s not as if the FBI did nothing. They not only investigated the older brother; they interviewed the older brother. They concluded that there were no signs that he was engaging in extremist activity. So that much we know,” Obama said, stressing the importance of finding out what triggered the radicalization of the bombing suspects and what could have been done to prevent it.

The Boston bombing has led to massive criticisms of the US’ domestic security, with some calling it “a massive failure of the surveillance state.” Much ire comes from the fact that the FBI had one of the suspects on their list but failed to prevent the attack.