John Brennan, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser inside the White House, made comments on Thursday that appeared to open the door to a delay in closing Guantanamo Bay.
President Obama said on Jan. 21 that the military prison in Cuba would be shuttered in one year.
Here’s what Brennan said in a question and answer session following a speech he gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (this is from a tape of the session):
There has been constant work and attention paid to this. This is one of the most challenging issues that are on our plate … It is our full intention to close down Guantanamo Bay, per the president’s direction, and we are doing everything possible to ensure that we are able to meet that directive and meet that deadline. And so when the president announced it I know that it was his full intent that it would in fact close, be shuttered, there would be no detainees there. We are working hard to realized that vision. We are going to get there … whether or not we come in a week or two early, or right on time, or whatever.
There are a number of things that are–-there are dependencies here: court cases, Congress can help or hinder our efforts on this. We are trying to do the right thing. We want to make sure justice is served … I very much hope that the Congress will work with the administration.
A questioner in the audience followed up with a second question about whether or not all detainees would be gone from the prison by Jan. 21, 2010.
Here’s Brennan’s answer:
I don’t have a crystal ball to say with certainty, because at this point it is unknowable how many people will be transferred in the next week, month, several months, and what the conditions on the ground will be on 1 January and 21 January. But what I’m saying to you as a fact is that everybody is doing everything possible within the administration to realize the president’s goal.
A CSIS moderator quickly shut down the q & a on orders from a White House aide.
Asked about Brennan’s remarks this morning, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs did not knock down the interpretation that there might be a delay in fully closing Gitmo.
“It’s our full intention to close down Guantanamo Bay per the president’s direction. We’re doing everything possible to ensure that we are able to meet that directive and meet that deadline,” Gibbs said.
— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times