"I transferred 67 detainees to other countries before Congress imposed restrictions to effectively prevent us from either transferring detainees to other countries or imprisoning them here in the United States. These restrictions make no sense," Obama said. He has vowed to close the prison.
"There is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened," Obama said.
The intelligence community seems to agree. In a letter to Congress last week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper listed examples of al-Qaida citing Guantanamo to justify its activities.
"Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility would deprive al-Qaida's leaders of the ability to use the alleged ongoing mistreatment of detainees to further their global jihadist narrative," Clapper wrote.
Purely from an economic point of view, the administration says Guantanamo is too costly. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress that annual spending on Guantanamo was $454 million — or about $2.7 million per detainee.
Obama has not said much publicly about Guantanamo in the nearly six months since the speech, but administration officials say he presses Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry on the matter every week. Obama also has new special envoys for Guantanamo closure at the State Department and Pentagon working full-time on the matter.
"Our marching orders are very clear from the president, and in terms of what he wants to do, and that's to close the facility," said envoy Clifford Sloan at the State Department.
Sloan said achieving that goal requires three steps — transferring out those who have been approved, prosecuting others and making a plan for the remaining detainees accused of participating in dangerous plots who cannot be prosecuted because the evidence against them is inadmissible in a court of law. That's a tall order on a three-year clock, but Sloan vowed, "Step by step, we will get there, and we will close it."