World Bulletin/News Desk
U.S. president Barack Obama said in a TV interview set for broadcast on Sunday that he will do "everything I can" to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after four Afghan detainees held there were sent home.
Obama promised to shut the internationally condemned prison when he took office nearly six years ago, saying it was damaging America's image around the world. But he has been unable to do so, partly because of obstacles posed by the U.S. Congress.
"I'm going to be doing everything I can to close it," Obama said on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley," program in an interview taped on Friday.
"It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held," he said.
"It is contrary to our values and it is wildly expensive. We're spending millions for each individual there. And we have drawn down the population there significantly," he added.
In the latest step in the gradual push to close the prison, four Afghans held for over a decade at Guantanamo have been sent home, the Pentagon said on Saturday.
"Sony hack not an act of war"
Obama does not consider the cyber attack on Sony Corp to be an act of war, he said in the interview, remarks apparently aimed at limiting U.S. anger over the incident which Washington blames on North Korea.
Obama and his advisers are weighing how to respond in kind to the attack, which prompted the Hollywood studio owned by the Japanese firm to withdraw a comedy, "The Interview," prepared for release to movie theaters during the holiday season.
"No, I don't think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately."
Obama also said his government was considering putting North Korea back on a U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism. It was removed from the list six years ago.
In the CNN interview, Obama said he was sympathetic to Sony's business considerations but stuck to his argument that the entertainment company had made a mistake.
"Had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what that story was," he said.
Obama said an important free speech principle was at stake.
"If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt, through cyber, you know, a company's distribution chain or its products and, as a consequence, we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem," he said.
He called on the U.S. Congress to pass a cyber-security law.
"We've got to work with the private sector and the private sector has to work together to harden their sites. But in the meantime, when there's a breach, we have to go after the wrongdoer. We can't start changing how we operate," he said.