National Security

Obama Leaves Office With 41 Terrorists Still In Guantanamo Bay

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Former President Barack Obama left office Friday, leaving 41 terrorists in detention at the Guantanamo Bay naval facility.

Obama promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center while campaigning for president eight years ago, but was unable to do so due to congressional push back. His request to close the facility was one of his first acts as president. Despite legal impediments, the Obama administration was able to release a majority of the detainees through a government review board.

The White House drastically increased transfers as Obama’s end of term drew closer. In his last week in office, 19 detainees were transferred to Saudi Arabia and Oman. Many of those released were deemed a “high risk” to U.S. national security by defense officials. Currently, 41 detainees remain at the facility, some of whom are believed to have planned the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. At its peak, Guantanamo Bay housed 680 prisoners and 240 when Obama took office.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence estimated in 2015 that anywhere between 18 to 30 percent of transferred detainees have returned to terrorism.

President Donald Trump expressed opposition to Obama’s closure policy as both a candidate and president-elect, promising to “load it up with some bad dudes.” He also called for Obama to cease further transfers on Jan. 3.

Trump noted in April that he would be interested in trying U.S. citizens accused of terrorism at Guantanamo Bay, though such a policy would likely require major changes to U.S. law.

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