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White House near decision to close Gitmo

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070621/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_guantanamo;_ylt=AkD4OIUHkBqTladXwUw9Z0ys0NUE White House near decision to close Gitmo By MATTHEW LEE,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 21, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070621/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_guantanamo;_ylt=AkD4OIUHkBqTladXwUw9Z0ys0NUE

      White House near decision to close Gitmo

      By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer 6 minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is nearing a
      decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detainee facility
      and move the terror suspects there to military prisons
      elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.

      President Bush's national security and legal advisers
      are expected to discuss the move at the White House on
      Friday and, for the first time, it appears a consensus
      is developing, senior administration officials said
      Thursday.

      The advisers will consider a proposal to shut the
      center and transfer detainees to one or more Defense
      Department facilities, including the maximum security
      military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where
      they could face trial, said the officials. They spoke
      on condition of anonymity because they were discussing
      internal deliberations.

      Officials familiar with the agenda of the Friday
      meeting said Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of
      State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert
      Gates, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Homeland
      Security chief Michael Chertoff, National Intelligence
      Director Mike McConnell and Joint Chiefs of Staff
      chairman Gen. Peter Pace were expected to attend.

      It was not immediately clear if the meeting would
      result in a final recommendation to Bush.

      Previous plans to close Guantanamo have run into
      resistance from Cheney, Gonzales and former Defense
      Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But officials said the new
      suggestion is gaining momentum with at least tacit
      support from the State and Homeland Security
      departments, the Pentagon, and the Intelligence
      directorate.

      Cheney's office and the Justice Department have been
      dead set against the step, arguing that moving
      "unlawful" enemy combatant suspects to the U.S. would
      give them undeserved legal rights.

      They could still block the proposal, but pressure to
      close Guantanamo has been building since a Supreme
      Court decision last year that found a previous system
      for prosecuting enemy combatants illegal. Recent
      rulings by military judges threw out charges against
      two terrorism suspects under a new tribunal scheme.

      Those decisions have dealt a blow to the
      administration's efforts to begin prosecuting dozens
      of Guantanamo detainees regarded as the nation's most
      dangerous terror suspects.

      In Congress, recently introduced legislation would
      require Guantanamo's closure. One measure would
      designate Fort Leavenworth as the new detention
      facility.

      Another bill would grant new rights to those held at
      Guantanamo Bay, including access to lawyers regardless
      of whether the prisoners are put on trial. Still
      another would allow detainees to protest their
      detentions in federal court, something they are now
      denied.

      Gates, who took over the Pentagon after Rumsfeld was
      forced out last year, has said Congress and the
      administration should work together to allow the U.S.
      to permanently imprison some of the more dangerous
      Guantanamo Bay detainees elsewhere so the facility can
      be closed.

      Military officials told Congress this month that the
      prison at Fort Leavenworth has 70 open beds and that
      the brig at a naval base in Charleston, S.C., has
      space for an additional 100 prisoners.

      The Guantanamo Bay prison, where some 380 alleged
      terrorists are now detained, has been a flash point
      for criticism of the Bush administration at home and
      abroad. It was set up in 2002 to house terror suspects
      captured in military operations, mostly in
      Afghanistan.

      Because the facility is in Cuba, the administration
      has argued that detainees there are not covered by
      rights and protections afforded to those in U.S.
      prisons.

      Human rights advocates and foreign leaders have
      repeatedly called for its closure, and the prison is
      regarded by many as proof of U.S. double standards on
      fundamental freedoms in the war on terrorism.

      Some of the detainees come from countries that are
      U.S. allies, including Britain, Saudi Arabia and
      Australia. Each of those governments raised complaints
      about the conditions or duration of detentions, or
      about the possibility that detainees might face death
      sentences.

      Rice has said she would like to see Guantanamo closed
      if a safe alternative could be found. She said during
      a trip to Spain this month that "the United States
      doesn't have any desire to be the world's jailer."

      "I don't think anyone wants to see Guantanamo open one
      day longer than it is needed. But I also suspect
      nobody wants to see a number of dangerous people
      simply released out onto the streets," she said.

      On Thursday, two Democratic lawmakers, Rep. Alcee
      Hastings of Florida and Sen. Benjamin Cardin of
      Maryland, told a human rights commission that
      Guantanamo must be closed if the United States is to
      regain credibility and authority on human rights.

      "The damage done to the United States goes beyond
      undermining our status as a global leader on human
      rights," Cardin said. "Our policies and practices
      regarding Guantanamo and other aspects of our detainee
      policies have undermined our authority to engage in
      the effective counter-terrorism measures that are
      necessary for the very security of this country."

      Officials say that Bush, who also has said he wants to
      close the facility as soon as possible, is keenly
      aware of its shortcomings.

      His wife, Laura, and mother, Barbara, along with Rice
      and longtime adviser Karen Hughes, head of the public
      diplomacy office at the State Department, have told
      him that Guantanamo is a blot on the U.S. record
      abroad, particularly in the Muslim world and among
      European allies.

      Bush has said the United States first has to determine
      what to do with the detainees there. The
      administration says some countries have refused to
      accept terror suspects from their territory.

      Earlier this month, former Secretary of State Colin
      Powell called for the immediate closure of the prison,
      saying it posed an untenable foreign policy risk and
      was irreparably harming the U.S. image abroad.

      ___

      AP Diplomatic Writer Anne Gearan contributed to this report.
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