Page 3 of 3   <      

White House Regroups on Guantanamo

Public displeasure with the decision to close the prison grew. Fifty percent of those surveyed in June said they disapproved of closing the facility, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, up significantly from a Pew poll in February.

Republicans pounced on the closure, alleging that it would make the United States "less safe." Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Democrats would "under no circumstances" move forward without more specifics.

The following month, Congress passed an appropriations bill that required the administration to report its plans before moving any detainee out of Guantanamo Bay and prevented it from using available money to move detainees onto U.S. soil.

Six pending pieces of legislation would make it harder for Obama to close the prison and transfer detainees to the United States or foreign countries.

After the congressional setbacks, Craig orchestrated the release of four of the Uighurs, flying with them and a State Department official from Guantanamo Bay to Bermuda, a self-governing British territory whose international relations are administered by Britain.

The transfer produced a diplomatic rift. British and U.S. officials said the Obama administration gave Britain two hours' notice that the Uighurs were being sent to Bermuda. "They essentially snuck them in, and we were furious," said a senior British official.

The move also caused friction between Britain and China, which seeks the Uighurs for waging an insurgency against the Chinese government.

Late Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel offered a defense of Craig, saying he "played a critical role in pursuing the president's goal of ensuring that we protect our nation's security interests in a manner that is consistent with our laws and our values."

One administration official was more effusive. "Greg Craig is a hero," the official said. "He took responsibility for this policy from the beginning, and he has guts and character. If we can't get it done by the deadline, then at least we'll have done as much as we can as smoothly as we could have."

In coming weeks, officials say, they expect to complete the initial review of all the files of those held at Guantanamo Bay.

Staff writer Peter Finn, polling director Jon Cohen and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report. ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

<          3

© 2009 The Washington Post Company