Eric Holder's Guantanamo Bay morass

By Dana Milbank
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eric Holder is a Guantanamo Bay prisoner.

He's not imprisoned at Gitmo, but he's imprisoned by Gitmo. The Justice Department he leads, and to some extent the whole Obama administration, has been detained -- tortured, even -- by the star-crossed attempt to close the military prison.

It began in the first hours of the administration, when Obama pledged to close Gitmo without a plan for doing so. It got infinitely worse in November, when Holder announced that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed would be tried in New York City.

So when Holder came before the Senate Judiciary Committee for questioning Wednesday morning, Democrats and Republicans confronted the attorney general with the same question: What's the plan? And Holder had no answer.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked Holder about the administration's interminable deliberations over what to do with the detainees. "How far along are we?"

"Well, that is something that we're still working on," Holder said, turning on his verbal fuzz machine. "Needs to be a process . . . initial determination . . . task force . . . principals' committee . . . ongoing review . . . still working through in the interagency."

Cardin reminded the attorney general that "we're looking forward to some broader recommendations."

Holder went on further about the "review mechanism."

"When should we expect some specifics as to how these procedures are being handled?" Cardin pressed. "I've heard you say frequently 'as soon as possible.' But it's getting late."

"Yeah, I mean, it is -- it is a priority. I mean, I think -- you know, what has . . ." Eventually Holder produced some more fuzz about how "it is now incumbent upon us to develop as quickly as we can what the review mechanism is going to be."

"Sometime this year?"

"I would certainly think that is -- I would -- I would -- I certainly think we can do that."

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