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If President Barack Obama could turn back the hands of time, he would have acted immediately to close Guantanamo Bay prison during his first term, he said Wednesday, according to the Huffington Post.

He pledged to close Gitmo during his 2008 campaign, but got waylaid by technicalities of how to close it legally, he explained.

Via the Huffington Post:

“I think I would have closed Guantanamo on the first day,” Obama said to applause at an event in Cleveland, Ohio.

Obama went on to say that he didn’t rush to close the military prison when he first took office because there was already bipartisan agreement that it should be closed. He noted that his GOP presidential opponent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had also called for shutting it down.

“I thought we had enough consensus where we could do it in a more deliberate fashion,” Obama said. “But the politics of it got tough, and people got scared by the rhetoric around it. Once that set in, then the path of least resistance was just to leave it open, even though it’s not who we are as a country and it’s used by terrorists around the world to help recruit jihadists.”

The U.S. has housed unlawful combatants from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries who were captured in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But the federal government has come under heavy criticism for holding prisoners there who haven’t been charged, for torturing prisoners, and for denying Geneva Convention protections.