Obama Expected to Transfer More Guantanamo Detainees in Final Days

The entrance to Camp 5 and Camp 6 at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay detention center / AP
January 3, 2017

President Obama is expected to transfer additional detainees from the Guantanamo Bay military prison in his final days in office, despite objections from President-elect Donald Trump.

"I would expect, at this point, additional transfers to be announced," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday, CNN reported, after Trump warned against further releases of "extremely dangerous" remaining detainees at the Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba.

The New York Times reported last month that the Obama administration intends to transfer 17 or 18 detainees before the president leaves office, leaving 41 or 42 prisoners remaining at the military prison. The last detainee transfer was announced by the Defense Department at the start of December, meaning that 59 prisoners currently remain at Guantanamo Bay.

Obama has accelerated his push to close Guantanamo over the last year, transferring numerous prisoners to foreign countries and delivering a plan to Congress that would involve moving detainees not cleared for release to stateside prisons. However, lawmakers have maintained restrictions on moving Guantanamo detainees to the United States, preventing the president from fulfilling his campaign promise of closing the facility.

Many Republicans have opposed Obama's push to close the detention facility, arguing that his efforts compromise U.S. national security. They have pointed to data from the Director of National Intelligence showing that 30 percent of detainees are either confirmed to have rejoined terrorist activities or are suspected of doing so.

Obama, in contrast, has argued that the prison is contrary to U.S. interests and serves as a recruiting tool for terrorist groups.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo," Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday. "These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

Trump has previously stated that he would keep Guantanamo open and "load it up with some bad dudes."

Earnest said later Tuesday that Trump's opinion would not factor into Obama's decision and that the president-elect will have "an opportunity to implement the policy that he believes will be more effective when he takes office on January 20."