TODAY   |  May 01, 2013

Obama renews vow to close Gitmo

Dozens of prisoners at Guantanamo remain on hunger strike, protesting being detained for years, often without charges, as President Obama says we “should reflect on why exactly we’re doing this.” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> this morning there's renewed focus on the prison at guantanamo bay amid a growing hunger strike . the president saying he wants to close it and will try again. andrea mitchell has latest on this. good morning to you.

>> reporter: ever since he took office president obama has been trying to close the prison at guantanamo bay but the latest obstacle is the hunger strike by 100 of the 160 detainees complaining what is already a legal and political stalemate. this morning 100 prisoners remain on hunger strike at guantanamo . their lawyers say to protest being detained for years. in most cases without being charged. extra doctors and nurses arrived monday to help force feed 21 prisoners. even as the american medical association protested telling defense secretary hagel force feeding violates core ethical values of the medical profession. once a prisoner makes a rational decision to refuse food. president obama says it's yet another reason the prison must be closed.

>> i don't want these individuals to die. obviously, the pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. but i think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this?

>> reporter: the military says dozens of prisoners clashed with guards two weeks ago after hiding makeshift weapons.

>> how can the military hope to maintain discipline over a prison camp where there is absolutely no hope for those men confined here?

>> reporter: the president tried to close guantanamo two days after he took office, but congress fought him at every turn. 86 prisoners, low-level detainees, mostly from yemen, were cleared to be sent back three years ago, but either yemen won't take them or can't satisfy u.s. security demands for their transfer.

>> the fact we have kept these men at guantanamo for years makes them essentially political prisoners . and there's no place for political prisoners in the united states .

>> the price tag for keeping guantanamo open, $800 million a year and the pentagon is considering up to $2 million in improvements.

>> andrea in washington, thank you