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Obama: We've "Fallen Short" on Closing Gitmo

In this May 14, 2009 file photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, Guantanamo detainees pray before dawn near a fence of razor-wire, inside the Camp 4 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. \ AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

President Obama acknowledged at a press conference Friday that his administration has "fallen short" in closing the Guantanamo Bay prison facility as promised.

"You know, we have succeeded on delivering a lot of campaign promises that we made," the president said at the White House. "One where we've fallen short is closing Guantanamo. I wanted to close it sooner. We have missed that deadline."

Since 2002, the prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba has housed detainees with suspected links to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The prison has since come under criticism for alleged mistreatment of prisoners.

After arguing that the American system of justice is absolutely capable of handling terrorists, Mr. Obama said that there are certain circumstances in which a military tribunal may be the best course of action in prosecuting such criminals.

"I'm prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans, and we, over the course of the last year, have been in constant conversations with them about setting up a sensible system in which we are prosecuting where appropriate those in Article III courts," he said. "We are prosecuting others, where appropriate, through a military tribunal. And in either case, let's put them in prisons where our track record is they've never escaped."

The president was asked about the issue specifically with reference to the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a former member of al-Qaeda in custody for alleged acts of terrorism.

Mr. Obama said that a bipartisan decision needed to be made surrounding his trial, and noted the importance of upholding American ideals in the process.

"We're going to work with members of Congress, and this is going to have to be on a bipartisan basis, to move this forward in a way that is consistent with our standards of due process; consistent with our Constitution; consistent also with our image in the world of -- of a country that cares about rule of law," he said.

Mr. Obama stressed the importance of dealing with Guantanamo Bay detainees fairly in order not to aid America's enemies.

"You know, Al Qaida operatives still cite Guantanamo as a justification for attacks against the United States -- still, to this day," he said. "And, you know, there's no reason for us to give them that kind of talking point when in fact we can use the various mechanisms of our justice system to prosecute these folks and to make sure that they never attack us again."

Mr. Obama also said there is a huge financial burden involved in detaining prisoners in Guantanamo as opposed to in United States prisons.

More from the press conference:

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Obama: "Fair" to Say I Haven't Fostered Cooperation in Washington

Obama on Afghan Corruption and the Hunt for Osama Bin Laden

Elizabeth Warren Gets (Vague) Support From Obama

With Key GOP Vote Secured, Obama Urges Senate to Pass Small Biz Bill

Austan Goolsbee Tapped As Top Economic Adviser

Obama: Americans Shouldn't Turn on Each Other

Obama on Quran Burning: You "Don't Play Games" with Troop Safety

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