WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- President Obama said on Tuesday that his administration
would reengage Congress on closing the U.S. military run detention
center at Guantanamo Bay.
"It needs to be closed," Obama said at a White House news conference. "I'm going to go back at this."
comments come with reports that as many as 100 prisoners at Guantanamo
are in the midst of a hunger strike. Obama had vowed in his 2008
campaign to close Guantanamo, but failed to get it done in his first
"It' is not a surprise to me that we are having problems at
Guantanamo." Obama called Guantanamo unsafe, expensive, and said it
lessens cooperation with U.S. allies.
He noted that Congress has
legislatively blocked him from closing Guantanamo, but offered no
solution to getting around that hurdle.
"I am going to reengage with Congress that this is not in the best interest of the American people," Obama said.
president added that Guantanamo might have been seen as necessary after
the Sept. 11 attacks, but the president says the time to close the
prison for high-value terror suspects who were captured on foreign soil
"This is a lingering problem that is not going to get better," Obama says. "It's going to get worse."
also appeared to defend the Defense Department's decision to force feed
the striking prisoners."I don't want these individuals to die," he
Meanwhile, Obama addressed intelligence reports that show
chemical weapons were likely deployed in Syria. He said it would be a
"game-changer" if it is confirmed that Syria's President Bashar Assad
used chemical weapons on his people.
But when pressed on if
confirmation would mean military action, the president only said that it
means that his administration would have to rethink its options.
"We don't know how they were used, when they were used or who used them," Obama said.
President Obama had previously drawn a "red line" on the use or transfer of chemical weapons by Assad's regime.
Obama said that taking additional action without hard evidence could compromise the U. S. position internationally.
we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, then we
can find ourselves where we can't mobilize the international community
to support what we do," Obama said.
But Obama stressed that if it
is confirmed that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, his
administration would take new action.
Obama also pushed back against criticism from some GOP lawmakers that have suggested that the
FBI dropped the ball when the Russian government asked it to investigate
one of the Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in 2011.
on what I've seen so far, the F.B.I. performed its duties, the
Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing,"
Obama said. "But this is hard stuff."
In other developments, Obama
commented about Jason Collins, the NBA player who became the first
active athlete in major league sports to come out as gay. Obama said he
spoke to Collins on Monday and called him "a terrific young man."
"I told him that I could not be prouder of him," Obama said.
also responded to criticism about his inability to get the Senate to
pass legislation to enhance background checks in the aftermath of last
year's school shooting in Newtown, that left 20 small children and six
Asked whether he had "any juice" left to get
anything done in Washington, Obama responded jokingly that it sounded
like he "should just pack up and go home."
The president then paraphrased Mark Twain.
"Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated," he said.