- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

Several lawmakers cautioned Sunday against any artificial deadline on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and Republicans predicted that President Obama would step back from his vow to close the facility by January.

Mr. Obama had pledged to release the detainees being held at Guantanamo by January, but the issue of what to do with those prisoners has vexed politicians here and abroad.

Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, said he opposes releasing detainees in his state and said the administration should not adhere to “artificial deadlines” when determining when to release the detainees.

He said Sunday, when reminded of the Obama administration’s January deadline, that the White House had made many promises.

“They’ve said a lot of things and taken a look and said some other things,” Mr. Webb said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “So let’s process these people in a very careful way and then take care of it.”

Mr. Obama already has disappointed many liberal supporters with shifting stances on national-security issues. In just the past week, he reversed himself by declining to release photos of detainee abuse and also said he would continue to use military tribunals to try Guantanamo detainees, a practice for which he had criticized the Bush administration.

The president said he thinks releasing additional photos of detainee abuse would put American troops in additional harm and has detailed an amended military tribunal policy that would expand rights for detainees. But civil liberties groups have chafed at Mr. Obama’s stances as reversals anyway.

“I think if the president spent as much time as I have sitting in those military commissions like Guantanamo - several weeks I have sat there in the back of that courtroom - he would see the debacle of justice,” American Civil Liberties Union President Anthony Romero said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “He would see that there is no way to resurrect these military commissions. It’s like a toxic-waste dump. You can’t just build a new house on a toxic-waste dump, you have to move the house.”

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, has said he would support holding some detainees in Virginia, but most other politicians have said they would oppose holding them in their states.

Republican lawmakers predicted Sunday that Mr. Obama would likely push back the January deadline, with Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and ranking Homeland Security Committee member, telling CBS that the president “made a mistake by setting an arbitrary deadline.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed, saying Mr. Obama should not have locked in a date without accounting for where the detainees would go.

“The president made a mistake by picking a date certain to close Guantanamo. He’s changed his mind about a number of things,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “This is one, I think, that requires an adjustment in his position because I think he’s going to have a very difficult time figuring out what to do with these terrorists.”

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, whom Mr. Obama recently backed as Democratic National Committee chairman, said the president has not reversed himself.

“On the photos, the president wrestled with a very fundamental question, which is: Now that certain photos are out, are more photos going to help us in our national security or not?” Mr. Kaine said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think we want a president who’s going to look at that data every day and try to make the best decision for the national security, and that was this decision.”

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