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Miami Herald

White House: Guantánamo Camps Not Closing Soon

The White House acknowledged that there is no end in sight for the prison camps at Guantánamo.

Carol Rosenberg

US Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answers a question during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on Dec. 20, 2010. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The Obama administration acknowledged Sunday that it has no new timetable for closure of the prison camps at Guantánamo, while reiterating a White House talking point that the controversial detention center is an al Qaeda ``recruiting tool.''

One of President Barack Obama's earliest executive orders was to order the prison camps emptied by Jan. 22, 2010. But spokesman Robert Gibbs told CNN's State of the Union program that there's no end in sight

``It's certainly not going to close in the next month,'' around the first anniversary of the administration's failed closure timetable. ``I think part of this depends on the Republicans' willingness to work with the administration on this.''

Both Democrats and GOP members of Congress scuttled a key facet of the closure plan -- to move some of the long-held war-on-terror captives to U.S. soil for continued detention and, in some cases, trials -- by putting legislative restrictions on Guantánamo transfers and releases in a succession of funding bills.

Still, Gibbs on Sunday cast the U.S. domestic conflict over closure as a partisan issue, replying to CNN news show host Candy Crowley that some Pentagon leaders such as Gen. David Petraeus support closing the camps in southeast Cuba to take away a propaganda tool from America's enemies.

``The question is, are we going to continue to have and let al Qaeda use Guantánamo Bay as a recruiting tool?''

The latest roadblock came as White House sources told The Washington Post that lawyers were drafting a new executive order for Obama's consideration that would allow for the indefinite detention of some four dozen Guantánamo captives that a task force decided a year ago could not be convicted at trial but are too dangerous to let go.

Gibbs described the approach this way:

``Some would be tried in federal courts, as we've seen done in the past. Some would be tried in military commissions, likely spending the rest of their lives in a maximum security prison that nobody, including terrorists, have ever escaped from. And some, regrettably, will have to be indefinitely detained,'' he said. ``Even if we can't prosecute them, we're not putting them back out on the battlefield.''

As of Sunday, the Pentagon was holding 174 prisoners at Guantánamo, three convicted of crimes and a fourth facing charges. The detention center enters its 10th year on Jan. 11.


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