US Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged Tuesday it will be “difficult” to close Guantanamo Bay by January 2010, as Washington faces a litany of challenges in shuttering the controversial prison.
“It’s going to be difficult for us to make the January 22 deadline,” Holder told reporters, insisting the facility would eventually be closed.
Holder and other administration officials have insisted that the prison camp will eventually be closed, as President Barack Obama faces a firestorm of opposition from both Republicans and his fellow Democrats in Congress to his plans to shut down the prison and move at least some detainees to US soil.
“I think at the end, Guantanamo will be closed,” Holder said.
About 80 detainees are eligible for release from Guantanamo, the US naval base in southern Cuba where 223 terror suspects are still held. The administration expects another 60 will be prosecuted.
Holder said a task force assigned to review detainee cases, with the goal of determining whether individuals should be released, prosecuted or detained without charge, has “gone through all the files.”
The government team has encountered setbacks as it sifts through complex cases that include evidence possibly tainted by abuse.
It has also struggled to persuade other countries to take some of the detainees, with only a trickle of prisoners — some 27 — transferred since Obama’s inauguration in January.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted last month it would be “tough” to close the detention center by January, becoming the first administration official to publicly admit Obama’s self-imposed deadline might not be kept.
More than 550 detainees have been transferred from Guantanamo since it was opened by former president George W. Bush in January 2002, according to the Defense Department.
The facility quickly became a symbol of “war on terror” abuses and Obama pledged during his presidential campaign to close it for good.