[JURIST] New US Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] argued during his first few weeks in the position that the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] should be shut down and detainees transferred to the US, according to a report in Friday's New York Times. Gates told other senior administration officials that Guantanamo was hindering US war efforts and that holding military trials of terror suspects at Guantanamo instead of in the US would undermine US credibility. Gates' arguments were reportedly supported by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but were rejected by US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Vice President Dick Cheney and ultimately by the president himself. A proposal to move terror detainees to military brigs in the US was rejected over concerns that shifting detainees and any military trials of terror suspects could bring increased constitutional and statutory rights for detainees. There have been repeated calls to close down the US facility [JURIST news archive] at Guantanamo from world leaders and rights groups. President Bush has said that he would ultimately like to shut the prison, but that this isn't the right time. The New York Times has more.
Several Guantanamo detainees have been charged [DOD materials] under the new Military Commissions Act [JURIST news archive]. Australian David Hicks will be the first to face arraignment Monday on charges of providing material support to terrorists [JURIST report].
4:38 PM ET - In his press briefing [transcript] Friday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow acknowledged that Gates had concerns about Guantanamo, but said that he "deferred to the Attorney General on the legal issues" and that Gates' concerns did not reach Bush. Snow also addressed the possibility of closing Guantanamo:
...there are legal constraints, and those are the things that the Attorney General had made clear in terms of the inadvisability of putting Guantanamo detainees on continental U.S. soil. We have tried as best we can to move those who are in Guantanamo either to their home nations, or nations where they are wanted for other trial or justice dispensation. But we also have laid down the benchmark that you also have to be able to assure that they're going to be treated humanely.Snow also said he doubted that Guantanamo would be closed during Bush's presidency.
Very few countries want these people back, and, therefore, what you have to do is to work through a procedure where you do, in fact, bring them to justice. But the President made clear back in September that he would love to be able to shut it down, but unfortunately the circumstances do not presently permit.