Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Guantanamo Bay disaster likely to outlast Bush term

One of the blackest marks against the administration of George W. Bush, the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is likely to continue sullying the reputation of the United States even after he leaves office. Senior officials in the Bush administration have told the Reuters international news service that the controversial facility, opened in 2002 to house terrorism suspects, will not be able to be closed by the end of Bush's presidency in January. This is despite stepped up efforts by the administration to return Guantanamo detainees to their own countries, Reuters said. "We have really kicked our efforts into overdrive," a senior State Department official said. About 60 of the prison's 255 detainees are in the process of being sent home and as many as 80 are expected to face military tribunals at the prison, Reuters said, but 115 are considered too dangerous to release despite a lack of evidence against them. "No one wants to release the next Mohamed Atta," an unnamed official told Reuters, referring to one of the 9/11 hijackers. Officials told Reuters that the State Department has been rushing to reach deals with several countries to take prisoners, and that Secretary of State's recent trip to North Africa included talks on that subject with Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. More than 500 prisoners have been released from Guantanamo Bay over the years, including many who were held without charges. Both leading candidates to replace Bush, Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, have promised to close the prison. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Bush wanted to see Guantanamo closed but keeping the country safe was his key concern.

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