Obama was interrupted three times by a woman from the anti-war group Code Pink, who appeared to be protesting both the drone program and the Guantanamo prison. The president said at one point that he was willing to "cut the young lady some slack" because the issues he was addressing were worth being passionate about.
In seeking to close Guantanamo, Obama faces many of the same roadblocks that stymied his efforts to shut the prison when he first took office. Many Republican lawmakers oppose Obama's efforts to bring some of the detainees to the U.S. to face trial and be held in maximum security American prisons.
But a new hunger strike by prisoners protesting their conditions and indefinite confinement has refocused Obama on efforts to close the detention center. He tried to jumpstart that process Thursday by announcing a fresh push to transfer approved detainees to their home countries and lift a ban on transfers to Yemen.
The end of the Yemen restrictions is key, given that 30 of the 56 prisoners eligible for transfer are Yemeni. Obama halted all transfers to the poor Middle Eastern nation in 2010, after a man trained in Yemen was convicted in a failed bombing attempt of an airliner over Detroit.
In a statement from its embassy in Washington, the Yemeni government said it welcomed the administration's decision and pledged to "work with the United States to take all necessary steps to ensure the safe return of its detainees."
Obama acknowledged that the politics of closing Guantanamo are difficult, but he said, "History will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those who fail to end it."
The president said he planned to appoint a special envoy to oversee the prisoner transfers and other efforts to close the prison.