Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters on Monday there are detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison who are so dangerous that it would not be safe to transfer them outside the care of the United States.
Carter and President Obama have drawn up a plan to move many of the remaining 91 detainees into the custody of foreign governments. Detainees not cleared for transfer overseas—those who Carter describes as too dangerous to go elsewhere—would be moved stateside in an effort to close the detention facility.
Carter made his comment while holding a press briefing at the Pentagon along with Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A reporter asked Carter if the United States is thinking of transferring the Guantanamo Bay naval base back to the Cuban government, which he denied while drawing a distinction between the naval base and the detention facility.
“The base is separate from the detention facility,” Carter said in response. “The base is in a strategic location. We’ve had it for a long time. It’s important to us, and we intend to hold onto it.”
Carter then turned his attention to the detention center within the naval base, which he said is the specific focus of the Obama administration’ closure plan.
“With respect to the detention facility at [Guantanamo], which is what the president was speaking about last week … there are people in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility whom it is not safe to transfer to any other—they have to stay in U.S. detention,” Carter said. “Safety is the top priority for me, the chairman, and for the president.”
Carter then said that because some detainees are too dangerous to release, there needs to be an alternate facility in the U.S. for these individuals to go if Guantanamo is closed, which is at the heart of Obama’s proposal.
The Pentagon is reportedly looking at send prisoners to either the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., the military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, or the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C.