- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

The White House yesterday said the Guantanamo Bay prison will remain open until all the detainees are dealt with, and the administration will work with Congress to remedy problems the Supreme Court cited when it ruled special military tribunals were illegally created.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Congress is interested in ensuring the more than 400 detainees at the naval facility in Cuba are brought to justice or sent home.

“You close it when you finish handling all the cases of people who are at Guantanamo,” Mr. Snow said, responding to a question about Mr. Bush’s stated goal of closing the jail that holds al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners picked up in the war on terror.

“And as we’ve said many times, you don’t simply shut it down. There are some people who you do not want on American soil, who you want to go ahead and conclude the process of bringing them to justice, and repatriating those to whom it is appropriate to repatriate.”

The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 on Thursday that a pending military tribunal for Yemeni national Salim Ahmed Hamdan, chauffeur to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, could not proceed because its structure and procedures violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949.

The court said Mr. Bush lacked the authority to create the tribunals, which offer lesser legal protections than already established courts-martial rules, but that Congress could authorize the use of tribunals.

“There’s considerable interest in Congress in going ahead and taking a good look at what the Supreme Court had to say and moving forward toward making sure we can proceed with military commissions …,” Mr. Snow said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, introduced a bill Thursday that would authorize the tribunals, legislation that will generate heated debate between Republicans and Democrats heading into midterm elections.

Democrats and civil rights groups, who have questioned the president’s power to detain and try prisoners, praised the ruling Thursday.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, called the decision “a stunning repudiation of the Bush administration’s lawless behavior at Guantanamo.”

A senior administration official said nothing in the ruling affected the president’s authority to detain enemy combatants, and that it didn’t find any constitutional impediment to the president and the Congress creating military commissions.

Saying the country has a long history and tradition of using military tribunals, the official said the court recognized that military commissions would be appropriate as long as the procedures used are consistent with its decision.

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