News & Politics

Robert Gates Confirms Bush Won't Close Gitmo

It's official: What happens to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay will be in the hands of the next president.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed Tuesday that the military prison at Guantanamo Bay would remain open for the duration of President George W. Bush's administration. The New York Times reported earlier in the day quoted unnamed senior administration officials as saying Bush had decided not to close the prison before the end of his presidency. The Times reported Bush "never considered" recent proposals by the Pentagon and State Department to transfer the detainees elsewhere. Instead, the president agreed with Vice President Dick Cheney and other advisers that immediate closure would pose significant legal and political risks. Responding to a question about the Times report during a press conference Tuesday, White House press secretary Dana Perino characterized Bush's decision as one "to work to try to close Guantanamo Bay." She said:
What the President has said is that he wants to be able to get into a position where we could close Guantanamo eventually. But it's very complex, it's complicated, it is difficult. There are four basic issues that we're dealing with right now. One of them is moving forward on military commissions. That process is slow, but it is moving forward. Another one is returning home or to a third country many of the detainees. … Third, we're in habeas litigation when it comes to the Boumediene decision and then the recent decision from Judge Urbina on the Uigher case…. And [Attorney] General Mukasey, backed by the President, supports legislation that Congress needs to pass.
Gates said a decision to close the prison would rest with the incoming administration. Both major presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) , have said they support closing the prison. Reuters has more.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that federal courts may review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees classified as "enemy combatants," and that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 did not deprive detainees of the right to challenge their detentions in federal court. While expressing concern that the Court's decision could lead to the release of "dangerous detainees" into the US, the Bush administration announced it was deciding how to close the prison and comply with the decision. Last year, prominent British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said he expected the facility to be closed after Bush leaves office.
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