U.S. President Barack Obama says he intends to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, despite criticism by former Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. lawmakers.
In a nationally televised speech Thursday, Mr. Obama said he is determined to end by next January what he called a "mess" at Guantanamo that his administration inherited when it took office four months ago.
President Obama said some of the 240 detainees awaiting charges will be transferred to ultra-secure "supermax" U.S. prisons and tried in American civilian courts, while others will face military commissions. He said his administration has so far approved 50 detainees for transfer to other countries.
Former Vice President Cheney said in a speech in Washington Thursday that Mr. Obama's decision to close the detention center was made with "little deliberation and no plan."
Most of the detainees were seized in Afghanistan or Pakistan, during military operations against al-Qaida terrorists after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Other countries have been unwilling or unable to accept detainees held at Guantanamo. Legal complications have hampered efforts to bring charges against the inmates.
The toughest decision, Mr. Obama said, is what to do with detainees who cannot be prosecuted but still pose what he called a "clear danger" to the American people.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate, controlled by Mr. Obama's Democratic Party, voted overwhelmingly (90 to six) to reject the $80 million needed to close the detention center. The House of Representatives has made a similar move.