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In his final year in office, President Barack Obama is once again calling for the closure of the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the government has held enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Mr. Obama vowed during the 2008 campaign to shut down the facility, which he called an embarrassment to our allies and a powerful recruiting tool for our adversaries. Yet he's repeatedly been thwarted by a Congress unwilling to allow the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to prisons in the U.S. With time running out before he leaves office next January, Mr. Obama should use his power as commander-in-chief to close Guantanamo by executive order and move the detainees to American soil if Congress refuses to act this year.

The prisoner population at Guantanamo has steadily fallen since its peak of more than 600 during the Bush era. In 2009, when Mr. Obama took office, there were 242 detainees there. Since then the numbers have continued to drop as the administration transferred prisoners to other countries that agreed to hold them or supervise their release. Today there 91 detainees at Guantanamo, of whom the government expects to resettle 35 in other countries this year. Of the remaining 56 prisoners, 10 have been convicted on terrorism charges or have pending cases, while the rest are considered too dangerous to release but can't be tried in U.S. courts because the evidence against them is weak or because they confessed under torture.

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Mr. Obama essentially has three alternatives for dealing with the latter group. He could try to persuade Congress to lift the ban on closing Guantanamo and moving the remaining detainees to prisons in the U.S. He could use his executive power to shut the facility and transfer the prisoners to U.S. soil in hopes that the courts will support him. Finally, he could simply do nothing and allow the next president to determine Guantanamo's fate.

But there's little to suggest the Republican-controlled Congress is interested in lifting the ban on bringing detainees to domestic prisons, especially during an election year. There's certainly an irrational element of reflexive fear of allowing detainees into the country, but there's also a fierce partisan unwillingness to do anything that might burnish the president's legacy. Given the political calendar, the chances of Congress lifting the ban on transferring Guantanamo detainees are nil.

Mind you, there's no reason the detainees can't be held safely at maximum security facilities in the U.S. — after all, other high-profile offenders, including Unabomber Theodore J. Kaczynski and Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, have been held in the U.S. for years without incident. But for Republicans to admit that would be handing the president a victory on a national security issue precisely at a time they are insisting he is weak in that area. It won't happen.

That is why we urge Mr. Obama to unilaterally use his executive powers as commander-in-chief to close Guantanamo and transfer the remaining detainees to detention facilities in the U.S. The president recently submitted a plan to move the 40 or so men who can't be tried in U.S. courts or resettled in other countries to secure facilities in the U.S. Possible sites include prisons or military bases in Kansas, South Carolina and Colorado. There is good reason to believe that determining how prisoners of war should be held is within his powers as commander in chief and that it is Congress' effort to prevent him from moving the prisoners, not the exercise of executive authority, that is unconstitutional.

The president's only other alternative would be to allow Guantanamo to remain open until his term ends and let the next president figure out what to do with it. If his successor is Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the likelihood is that either of them would continue to gradually cull the detainee population at Guantanamo until it no longer made sense to maintain a facility that costs taxpayers $450 million a year to operate. But given that Sen. Ted Cruz favors waterboarding and Donald Trump brags that he would "bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding," the odds of that happening under a Republican president are slim. Mr. Obama should do what's right and take his chances with the courts.

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