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US 'moral authority' suffered setback due to Guantanamo: Obama

world Updated: May 22, 2009 17:46 IST

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President Barack Obama has said the US has suffered a setback to its moral authority, which is its "strongest currency" in the world, by running the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison and vowed to stick to his decision to close the Bush-era anti-terror jail facility.

Defending his decision to close the military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Obama said the prison has made the United States less safe and caused a setback to the country's "moral authority."

"There is also no question that Guantanamo (led to a) setback (to) the moral authority that is America's strongest currency in the world," Obama said during an address on national security at the National Archives here.

"The record is clear: Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security," he said.

"It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it," he said.

The US President said that the facility resulted in the creation of more terrorists than it detained, and pointed out that over the last seven years, the system of military commissions at Guantanamo succeeded in convicting "a grand total of three suspected terrorists."

"By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it," Obama said, adding that was why he argued that it should be closed throughout his presidential campaign.

Obama also rejected the previous Bush administration tactics adopted after the September 11 attacks in 2001, saying they were the result of "fear rather than foresight."

"All too often, our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions," he said.

Immediately after Obama spoke, former Vice President Dick Cheney blasted his national security decisions and philosophy, and defended the moves of the Bush administration.

In an address to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Cheney said the Bush administration's "enhanced" interrogations of al-Qaeda prisoners saved "thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands" of lives.

Dismissing critics who said the policy amounted to the torture of suspected terrorists, Cheney called the techniques the Bush administration approved "legal, essential, justified, successful and the right thing to do."

Cheney claimed that Obama has weakened the US ability to combat al-Qaeda and belittled his decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison "with little deliberation and no plan."

He also said the Bush administration's national security policies successfully delivered numerous "blows" to extremists targeting the United States.

Obama's plans to close Guantanamo have been met with opposition from both sides of the aisle in Congress.