Nightly News   |  April 30, 2013

Obama on Gitmo: ‘It needs to stop’

President Obama had planned to close Guantanamo Bay as soon as he took office, but after being blocked by Congress and the military court system, and coping with the detainees’ hunger strike, there’s no easy solution for the facility that costs taxpayers $800 million a year. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> good evening. we don't get to see them or know their names, and most americans actually prefer not to spend a whole lot of time thinking about the men who have been rounded up as enemy combatants and imprisoned at guantanamo bay in cuba. we think of them when they become an issue like when candidate obama vowed to close the facility, and tonight those prisoners are back in the news because 100 of them are "aua hunger strike , apparently preparing to take their own lives and do it slowly under heavy guard at guantanamo bay . some of them are being force fed now, and now the president is facing some tough questions about what to do. our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell , watching it all from our d.c. newsroom today. good evening.

>> the president promised to close guantanamo as soon as he took office, but years later he has been blocked by congress, the military court system, and now facing that hunger strike by the prisoners, he's clearly frustrated.

>> reporter: guantanamo bay where 100 of 166 prisoners are on a hunger strike . some since february. their lawyers say they're protesting years of detention, most without being charged, and no release in sight. today president obama agreed the prison needs to be closed.

>> the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are. it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.

>> reporter: extra doctors and nurses arrived today to help force feed 21 of the detainees. this despite the american medical association 's protest to defense secretary hagel that force feeding , quote, quits core ethical values of the medical profession. once a prisoner makes a rational decision to refuse food.

>> the administration seems to be more worried about the bad publicity from a detainee dying than they are from the bad publicity of force feeding the detainees.

>> i don't want these individuals to die. obviously, the pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. but i think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this?

>> reporter: the military says dozens of prisoners clashed with guards two weeks ago and were hiding makeshift weapons.

>> we hit the point where, you know, i felt we were accepting too much risk, and it was time to take action.

>> by the authority vested in me as president --

>> reporter: the president tried to close guantanamo two days after he took office. what happened? congress fought him at every turn, blocking a plan to build a supermax prison in illinois, or try prisoners like alleged 9/11 mastermind khalid shaikh mohammed in lower manhattan , or send them home. 86 prisoners, low-level detainees, mostly from yemen, were cleared to be sent back three years ago, but either yemen won't take them or can't satisfy u.s. security demands for their transfer. guantanamo costs taxpayers $800 million a year with no solution for the prisoners or for the president. brian?

>> andrea mitchell starting us off