Obama Cabinet Members Hold Private Meeting on Guantanamo Detainees

March 10, 2009 - 5:42 AM
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In this Dec. 4, 2006 file photo, a detainee peers out of his cell inside Camp Delta detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (AP Photo)

Washington (AP) - Top officials of the Obama administration met privately Monday to discuss how to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
 
Attorney General Eric Holder hosted the first Cabinet-level meeting of President Barack Obama's Guantanamo task force. Participating in the meeting, among others, were Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CIA Director Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
 
Obama has pledged to close the facility for terror suspects within a year, and officials must decide which suspects to ship away to foreign countries and which to bring to trial in U.S. courts, or tried and held by the U.S. in some other fashion.
 
At Monday's high-level meeting, the group discussed standards for reviewing detainee cases, which detainee decisions will get priority, and what has been done to date.
 
According to an official familiar with the process, detainees are being grouped into categories, and government officials from multiple agencies are being grouped into teams assigned to examine particular categories of detainees.
 
The review teams would then make recommendations to the Guantanamo task force. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are private.
 
If a review team cannot reach a consensus on a particular detainee, the case will go to the Cabinet-level officials to reach a decision, the official said.
 
Holder, who visited the Navy base last month, has said each case needs to be reviewed separately.
 
In one of his first official acts as president, Obama signed an executive order giving his administration a year to close the detention facility, which now holds roughly 240 people. So far, just one Guantanamo has been released under Obama's watch, an Ethiopan man sent to England.
 
Closing Guantamo will not be easy, Holder has said, but he has pledged to do it "in a way that ensures that people are treated fairly and that the American people are kept safe."
 
Critics, including many congressional Republicans, argue that the detention facility should remain open and that releasing its detainees, or transferring them to courts in the United States, is too dangerous.