Obama Appointee Adds to Mixed Signals on Gitmo

by Jason Ditz, December 02, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama has added to growing discomfort about the seriousness with which he is approaching his pledge to close the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay by selecting Eric Holder to be the attorney general for his incoming administration.

Though in recent months he has parroted the Obama campaign’s position on the facility, Holder was a long-time advocate of the Bush Administration’s policies, saying he believed that the detainees could be thought of as “combatants” and held “until the war is over,” an ominous suggestion given the open-ended nature of the conflict. He likewise argued that the detainees are not “entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention” in that they weren’t technically prisoners of war.

Still, President-elect Obama maintains that he is committed to closing Guantanamo sometime after he takes office, though aides are quick to point out that no decision has been made as to how to proceed on this course, nor indeed is there even a process in place to make such a decision. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says any move to close the facility will require a joint effort with Congress to ensure that released detainees are prohibited from seeking asylum in the United States. This is likely to create another stumbling block as some of the detainees, though cleared of wrong-doing, would not be welcomed back to their countries of origin.

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