Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Thursday, June 21, 2007

  Is the White House planning to close Guantanamo?

This evening the Associated Press produced a report suggesting that the White House was planning to hold a meeting soon, perhaps as soon as Friday, to discuss again whether to close the gulag at Guantanamo Bay. However the report is anonymously sourced and, once the news leaked, it evoked several incoherent denials from White House officials. These denials are reported more clearly in a longer version of the AP story, which can be found at CNN.

From the main AP story:

Senior administration officials said Thursday a consensus is building for 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, Kan., where they could face trial.

President Bush's national security and legal advisers had been scheduled to discuss the move at a meeting Friday, the officials said, but after news of it broke, the White House said the meeting would not take place that day and no decision on Guantanamo Bay's status is imminent.

"It's no longer on the schedule for tomorrow," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "Senior officials have met on the issue in the past, and I expect they will meet on the issue in the future."

Three senior administration officials spoke about the discussions on condition of anonymity because they were internal deliberations.

Most of the rest of that report focuses on previous attempts by Cheney, Gonzales and Rumsfeld to block the closure of Guantanamo, and their increasing isolation as criticism of Gitmo mounts from all sides.

The longer version at CNN adds the following.

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

Deputy White House Press Secretary Scott Stanzel said Thursday that there are no plans for such a meeting.

"The President has long expressed a desire to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and to do so in a responsible way. A number of steps need to take place before that can happen such as setting up military commissions and the repatriation to their home countries of detainees who have been cleared for released. 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."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman agreed.

"I am telling you there is nothing to this," he said

"There has been no change in our policy, and I am not ware of any plans to change at this point."

I don't know how to reconcile the statements of Gordon Johndroe, that the meeting is "no longer on the schedule for tomorrow", with the insinuations of Scott Stanzel and Bryan Whitman that the very idea of such a meeting is ridiculous. I think the latter two are lying.

Either the White House is trying to pretend that no such discussions are under way (because once it admits that the issue is reaching a crisis, then it will almost have to act to close Gitmo); or else Cheney is furious at the news leaking out and he needs to be appeased.

It could be that both things are true. At a minimum, the leak appears to be orchestrated in order to wrong-foot Cheney. The Vice President is notorious for his deviousness; he sways Bush in private to abandon decisions just taken in larger meetings of advisors. So there would be no real point in marshalling forces to convince Bush to close Gitmo in the meeting described by the AP, if Cheney was going once again to undercut any agreement reached, after the fact and in secret.

One mark that the news report is part of a heavy-handed attempt to lobby Bush publicly is this section from the main AP story:

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.

That's quite a line up. The four most influential women in George Bush's life, all named as proponents of closing Guantanamo. To insiders, evidently, this would seem to be the pressure of ultimate resort.

Shame the President doesn't care quite so much about human rights and the rule of law, as he does about what his Mom says.

crossposted at Unbossed and Never in our Names

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