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NBC: 'Hopes' of Gitmo Terror Detainees Were 'Crushed' By Obama's Failure to Close Prison

In a report for Thursday's NBC Today, investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff reported on plans for a $150 million renovation of the Guantanamo Bay prison still housing 166 terror detainees and sympathetically described how "despite improvements in recent years" of the facility, "the detainees' hopes of getting released were crushed when President Obama stopped talking about closing it." [Listen to the audio]

Isikoff noted that some of the detainees were "engaged in a hunger strike...as an attempt to regain attention." A sound bite played of new the commanding general of the prison expressing his frustration with President Obama: "Nothing in the inauguration speech about closing it. Nothing in the State of the Union. You know, he's not re-staffing the office that was, you know, focused on closing or transferring."

Isikoff forwarded the Obama administration defense: "White House officials say they're still committed to closing Gitmo as the President once promised....But they say their hands are tied by Congress..."

He then described some of the planned spending on the prison: "General Kelly wants to spend tens of millions for a new guard barracks, dining hall, and legal conference center. The Pentagon is already spending $40 million for an underwater fiberoptic cable to pipe video of the military commission hearings of the 9/11 hijackers. As one defense lawyer said, 'Gitmo seems to be the one place they don't care about spending money.'"

Here is a full transcript of Isikoff's March 21 report:

7:13AM ET

MATT LAUER: We have an NBC News exclusive this morning on a proposal to spend tens of millions of your tax dollars to upgrade the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Here's NBC's national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: NBC News Exclusive; Guantanamo Makeover? Pentagon Considering Major $150M Overhaul]

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Guantanamo, the prison that President Obama once vowed to shut down, is still up and running. And the new general in charge wants another $150 million to overhaul the facility. All this while detainees are engaged in a hunger strike. 166 detainees remain at Gitmo at a cost of $1 million each. And despite improvements in recent years, including communal living blocks and a new soccer field, the top general acknowledges the detainees' hopes of getting released were crushed when President Obama stopped talking about closing it.

GEN. JOHN KELLY [U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND]: Nothing in the inauguration speech about closing it. Nothing in the State of the Union. You know, he's not re-staffing the office that was, you know, focused on closing or transferring.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Kelly described the hunger strike, now involving 25 detainees, as an attempt to regain attention. White House officials say they're still committed to closing Gitmo as the President once promised.

BARACK OBAMA: Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.

ISIKOFF: But they say their hands are tied by Congress, and to prepare for the long haul. Officials tell NBC News General Kelly wants to spend tens of millions for a new guard barracks, dining hall, and legal conference center. The Pentagon is already spending $40 million for an underwater fiberoptic cable to pipe video of the military commission hearings of the 9/11 hijackers. As one defense lawyer said, "Gitmo seems to be the one place they don't care about spending money." For Today, Michael Isikoff, NBC News, Washington.