(CN) – One week before a group of detainees begins to be transferred, a report says the Pentagon has blocked President Barack Obama’s efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress earlier this month that 17 Guantanamo detainees would be transferred to other countries in January, dropping the total number of detainees at the controversial facility to 90.
The transfers begin next week, according to an Associated Press report.
Last month, Obama signed a military-spending bill that banned any movement of Guantanamo detainees to the United States. The president said the overall bill included “important reforms” but said he is “deeply disappointed” in Congress’ effort to keep the detention facility open.
“The restrictions contained in this bill concerning the detention facility at Guantanamo are, as I have said in the past, unwarranted and counterproductive,” Obama said. “Rather than taking steps to close the facility, this bill aims to extend its operation…As I have said repeatedly, the executive branch must have the flexibility, with regard to the detainees who remain at Guantanamo, to determine when and where to prosecute them, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests, and when and where to transfer them consistent with our national security and our humane treatment policy.”
Reuters reported Tuesday that sources involved in the effort to close Guantanamo Bay said Pentagon officials have been using bureaucratic obstacles to thwart Obama’s plan to close the facility.
Defense Department officials have slowed prisoner transfers by refusing to provide basic documentation to foreign governments and making it difficult for foreign delegations to visit Guantanamo, according to Reuters.
Tuesday’s report also says that Pentagon officials have been more cooperative since Obama scolded Carter in a September one-on-one meeting, but administrative officials still believe the Defense Department makes transfers more difficult than necessary.
Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross denied claims of an effort to slow Guantanamo transfers, saying the Defense Department has never been notified “that transfer negotiations collapsed due to a lack of information or access provided by the Department of Defense.”
Likewise, White House spokesman Myles Caggins denied any conflict with the Pentagon, saying all parties are committed to “safely and responsibly closing the detention facility,” according to the Reuters report.
Obama pledged to close Guantanamo Bay during his 2008 presidential campaign, criticizing President George W. Bush for keeping terrorism detainees there for years without trial.
The facility held 242 detainees when Obama took office in 2009, and it currently houses 107, according to Reuters.
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