President Biden has quietly begun the process to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, hoping to have the facility in Cuba shuttered by the end of his term.
The administration is keeping its efforts to close Guantánamo below the radar for now in an effort to avoid political blowback and wants to make progress before Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, sources told NBC.
While Congress has prevented attempts to close the facility in the past, NBC reported that the White House is taking a less aggressive approach and waiting to reach out to lawmakers about its efforts.
The administration is working on transferring some inmates at the facility to other countries, while Congress would have to allow the transfer of any terrorism suspects, including those involved with 9/11, to a detention facility on the U.S. mainland.
“They don't want it to become a dominant issue that blows up,” a former senior administration official involved in the discussions told NBC. “They don't want it to become a lightning rod. They want it to be methodical, orderly.”
Forty people are in custody in Guantánamo, which was opened in 2002 by former President George W. Bush.
Former President Obama attempted to close Guantánamo during his presidency but faced strong opposition from Congress.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked to confirm Biden’s goal later on Wednesday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said he was not aware of any target date to close the facility.
“The president has been clear ... that we are conducting a thorough and deliberate review that’s focused on closing the facility,” Kirby told reporters.
“To that end, the National Security Council continues to work closely with the departments of Defense, State and Justice as well as other departments and agencies. Those discussions are ongoing.”