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Trump administration readies draft executive order on Guantanamo Bay

Activists protest the Guantanamo Bay detention camp during a rally in Lafayette Square outside the White House on Jan. 11, 2018. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The Trump administration may soon issue an executive order that would reiterate President Trump's intention to keep the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in operation, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Administration officials have been developing a draft measure that, if finalized, would rescind another executive order that then-President Barack Obama signed in 2009, promising to shutter the prison, one official said. It might also include other elements of the Trump administration's detention policy.

At the State Department, officials are preparing a draft cable that would alert U.S. embassies overseas of the new order, another official said. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.

"We are always looking to protect the American people from terrorist threats," the second official said.

The preparation of the new order was first reported by Politico, which said it could be issued within the next week, and perhaps would be mentioned by Trump at Tuesday's State of the Union address.

Forty-one prisoners remain at Guantanamo, some of them facing trial in a military court and others who have never been charged with a crime.

While the Obama administration resettled more than 100 prisoners overseas, the Trump White House has so far refused to approve such transfers, which many Republicans say endanger U.S. security.

The fate of the remaining prisoners, and of the controversial facility itself, has been the subject of discussion among Trump administration officials for months.

While Trump himself has suggested he would like to lock new detainees up at Guantanamo, many officials across the government have been wary of such a move.

Around the world, the prison is associated with U.S. actions in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The prison's military trial process, meanwhile, is moving so slowly that it could be years before the suspects are sentenced — if they are convicted.

But officials cautioned that it was too soon to say whether such an order, which has been the subject of multiple drafts since Trump took office a year ago, would be rolled out in coming days.

While rescinding Obama's order would signal the president's support for keeping terrorism suspects locked up at the naval station in Cuba, it would be unlikely to alter the way the prison operates. Obama, facing persistent political opposition throughout his presidency, failed to deliver on his campaign vow to shutter Guantanamo.