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Cheney: Don't Close Guantanamo Yet

By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Vice President Cheney said yesterday that he would not immediately close the prison housing terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, because there is no other place to send some of the world's most dangerous men.

President Bush has said repeatedly that he wants to close the prison once administration officials figure out what to do with several hundred remaining detainees. But senior administration officials have been divided about how to accomplish that, given practical impediments such as the reluctance on the part of some countries to accept the return of their citizens detained there.

Cheney gave voice to his position in an interview with CNN's Larry King, who asked whether Cheney agreed with former secretary of state Colin L. Powell that the facility should be closed "yesterday."

"I think you need to have someplace to hold those individuals who have been captured during the global war on terror. I'm thinking of people like Khalid Sheik Mohammed. This is a man we captured in Pakistan. He's the mastermind of 9/11," Cheney replied. "There are hundreds of people like that, and if you closed Guantanamo, you'd have to find someplace else to put these folks."

Cheney also came to the defense of a former aide, Eric S. Edelman, now an undersecretary of defense. Edelman recently stirred controversy when he responded to a request from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for a briefing on withdrawal plans from Iraq by accusing her of reinforcing "enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies" by discussing a timetable for withdrawal.

Cheney said he thought Edelman wrote "a good letter" and added that "we don't get into the business of sharing operational plans -- we never have -- with the Congress."

A spokesman for Clinton noted that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates took a more "conciliatory tone" after the Edelman letter and reaffirmed Congress's role in overseeing the administration. "It seems the right hand doesn't know what the far-right hand is doing," said Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines.

Cheney also disclosed that he recently had dinner with his former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whose 30-month sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice was commuted by Bush. Cheney said earlier this week that he disagreed with the verdict.

"He's doing well," Cheney said. "He obviously went through a very, very difficult time, very hard for him and for his family. I think having the commutation of sentence decided has been a huge relief for him, but he still has a very difficult road. He's got -- obviously he needs to find work. He's got legal bills. He carries the burden of having been convicted. All those are not easy problems. But he's clearly in -- he's in good spirits and getting on with his life."

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