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Gates Says Chances ‘Low’ Obama Can Close Guantanamo

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said there was little chance of President Barack Obama being able to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility -- an administration priority -- because of congressional opposition.

The chance “is very, very low given the very broad opposition to doing that here in the Congress,” Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday told reporters that the administration still wants to shutter the prison at the naval facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has drawn criticism for alleged human rights abuses.

“The president remains committed to closing Guantanamo,” Carney said.

Congressional Republicans have opposed closing the facility. Congress passed legislation last year that banned the use of Defense Department funding to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.

The administration has backed off a plan to try in the U.S. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

During today’s hearing, Gates said that as many as one in four people freed from Guantanamo are suspected of or confirmed to have engaged in terrorist activity after their release.

“One of the things we have discovered over time is that we’re not particularly good at predicting which returnee will be a recidivist,” he said. “Some of those we have considered the most dangerous have not, and some that we have evaluated as not being much of a danger, we’ve discovered in the fight.”

Returning to Terrorism

As of October, the Defense Department said it had confirmed that 81 of the 598 freed detainees had resorted to terrorism. Another 69 are suspected of having teamed up with militant groups. Of that group of 150 confirmed and suspected terrorists, 13 are dead, 54 are back in custody and 83 remain at large, the Defense Department said.

Last year, U.S. government statistics showed that as many as one in five freed detainees may have engaged in terrorist activities.

A December report by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that of 66 people transferred from Guantanamo since Obama took office, “two are confirmed and three are suspected of re-engaging in terrorist or insurgent activities,” according to a summary of the report.

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