Guantanamo meeting canceled after report closure is
POSTED: 11:02 p.m. EDT, June 21, 2007
Friday meeting about Guantanamo canceled; no word on
reason for cancellation
AP reported Thursday the Bush administration
"nearing decision" to close center
Pentagon and White House deny any plans to shut it
There are about 375 detainees at Guantanamo Bay,
according to the Pentagon
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A White House meeting planned for
Friday about the future of the Guantanamo Bay
detention facility has been canceled after The
Associated Press reported the Bush administration was
"nearing a decision" to close the center.
National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe
said there would be no meeting Friday, but he would
not comment on the reasons for the cancellation
Earlier Thursday, AP reported that officials were
close to a decision to shut down the facility in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that the administration had
scheduled a meeting to discuss a proposal to transfer
the detainees to other military prisons.
Officials from the White House, the Pentagon and the
Justice and State departments denied the AP report.
"The administration is not 'nearing a decision' on
changing our long-held policy to shut down Gitmo in a
responsible way," said White House spokeswoman Dana
Perino. "There is no meeting tomorrow."
Johndroe said the president has "long expressed a
desire to close" the detention center, but "a number
of steps need to take place before that can happen."
Those steps include establishing military commissions
and sending home the detainees who have been cleared
for release, he said.
"These and other steps have not been completed. No
decisions on the future of Guantanamo Bay are
imminent, and there will not be a White House meeting
tomorrow," he said.
Johndroe later told CNN that a meeting had been set
but was canceled.
Official: We all want to see Guantanamo closed as soon
A senior State Department official told CNN that the
administration was not changing its course on
Guantanamo and that regular, "high-level" discussions
on the facility take place.
"We are working hard on this," the official said,
adding that the administration was "in the process of
negotiating agreements" on those at Guantanamo Bay
both to transfer them to other facilities and to put
them on trial. "We all want to see it [Guantanamo Bay]
closed as soon as possible."
There are about 375 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay,
according to the Pentagon. Among those are 14
"high-level detainees" formerly held in secret CIA
prisons, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the
suspected mastermind behind the September 11, 2001,
attacks on the United States.
Senior administration officials said the facility will
eventually be shut down.
"It's just a matter of figuring out how to get there,"
one official said. "It's a complicated, complex
Officials said there have been numerous discussions on
the issue involving Cabinet-level officials but none
yet involving President Bush.
One item being worked on is reaching agreement with
Afghanistan to build a prison, where several dozen
detainees could be transferred, officials said.
"There are 375 detainees," one official said."If we
transferred the Afghan prisoners, that would put us at
less than 100 at the camp. This would be a reasonable
number. It would allow us to then figure out who to
try and get the military commissions up and running."
"But we still need to build the prison, train the
guards and transfer people. All of this takes time,"
the official said.
Another issue, the officials said, is to establish
working agreements with foreign governments to take
remaining detainees to countries where they would be
treated humanely but not released prematurely, which
they said has been a problem in the past.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, Zain Verjee and Jamie McIntyre
contributed to this report.