Tags: obama | guantanamo | bay

Obama Rep.: Guantanamo Could Stay Open Longer

Tuesday, 27 Jan 2009 04:55 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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Greg Craig, President Barack Obama’s counsel, has opened a window on the possibility that Obama could extend the operation of the Guantanamo Bay military prison camp for more than a year, Newsmax has learned.

Craig met with members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees last week. Asked if Obama would delay the closing of Guantanamo if no place can be found for the prisoners, Craig nodded his head, signifying he would. But Craig said the “cost of perceptions” about Obama would be too great if he did not adhere to his campaign promise by saying he is closing Guantanamo.

White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer did not respond to a request for comment.

While the thought of closing Guantanamo excited Democrats at briefings given by Craig, Republicans were skeptical. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, tells Newsmax that Obama’s advisers appear only now to be trying to address what to do with the prisoners there.

“I don’t think there’s been a lot of thought about what they’re going to do with the people there,” Bond says. “Moving the detainees to a prison in the United States would risk al-Qaida attacks on that institution and surrounding territories to try to free the people, so it raises a much greater danger to any facility.”

As for suggestions that the prisoners be moved to Leavenworth penitentiary in Kansas, “The people of Kansas and Missouri don’t want them in Leavenworth, and Leavenworth is not a fortified community,” Bond says. “That’s why I’ve suggest that if the people of San Francisco want to close Guantanamo, if they have to bring them to the United States, they ought to look at Alcatraz.”

So far, Bond says, Obama’s national security advisers have at least been willing to listen to what Bond and others have to say on the issue.

“Once you get up and look at those issues closely, they are not quite as easy to settle as some of the vocal opponents of effective intelligence and security matters have said,” Bond notes.

While he would not discuss what White House Counsel Craig said in briefings, Bond says, “They have issued an executive order, and when the president issues an executive order, he can always issue another one [keeping Guantanamo open longer]. So there would be that option.”

Bond points out that in his executive order issued last week, Obama appeared to close the CIA’s so-called secret prisons but really did not. Obama’s order said the CIA could continue to hold high-value detainees temporarily.

“They have said that they will be allowed to have facilities for the temporary holding of high-value detainees, which I think makes the system workable,” Bond says.

Bond cites that already 61 former detainees from Guantanamo have returned to terrorism since they were released to other countries, according to a Pentagon report. One of them, Ali al-Shihri, has become the deputy leader of al-Qaida’s Yemeni branch since being released to Saudi Arabia in 2007. He is suspected of involvement in a deadly United States Embassy bombing in Yemen's capital, Sana'a, in September.

“Many of the people who voted for President Obama would want him to be making efforts in these areas such as shutting down Guantanamo,” Bond says. “We are suggesting there are reasonable ways to pursue those goals without shutting down the ability of the United States to gather the information that we need from high-value detainees.”

Releasing terrorists may please the left, but if one of them escapes and attacks the U.S., Bond says, “Those of us in the middle will have lots to say about it.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
e-mail. Go here now.

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