WASHINGTON — President Obama said Wednesday his administration is trying to figure out what to do with detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who can't be prosecuted but are too dangerous to be released.
Earlier in the day the White House acknowledged that administration officials are drafting an executive order to set up a review process for detainees held indefinitely at Guantanamo.
Such an order would be further acknowledgment by Obama that his campaign pledge to close Guantanamo Bay will remain unfulfilled for the foreseeable future. The president has long said that some terrorism suspects would be held indefinitely, but he has hoped for that to be on U.S. soil.
During a news conference Obama showed little interest in discussing the island prison.
Without discussing details of the proposed executive order, which hasn't been sent to him, Obama said some detainees can't be prosecuted because evidence against them was tainted during their apprehension or detention before they were moved to Guantanamo. Some were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique.
Still, Obama said some of the detainees are simply too dangerous to be released.
"When I get that report I'm sure I will have more comments on it," Obama said. "Striking this balance between our security and making sure we are consistent with our values is not easy."
The president said creating a system of reviews, including providing lawyers for detainees who want to challenge their detention, will ultimately show the world "we stand for something beyond just our economic power and our military might. That we have these values, that's one of our most powerful weapons."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said earlier in the day that the executive order is in line with procedures Obama broadly described in a May 2009 speech about detainees who would be held indefinitely at that military prison.
"We must have clear, defensible and lawful standards for those who fall in this category," Obama said at the time.