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Guantanamo prison closure tops Obama's list

The executive order in his first week in office would begin the process, but it is unlikely that the detention facility in Cuba would close in the first 100 days of the new presidency.

January 13, 2009|associated press

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to issue an executive order his first week in office -- and perhaps his first day -- to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to two presidential transition team advisors.

It's unlikely the detention facility at the Navy base in Cuba will be closed any time soon.

In an interview last weekend, Obama said it would be "a challenge" to close it even within the first 100 days of his administration.

But the order, which one advisor said could be issued as early as Jan. 20, would start the process of deciding what to do with the estimated 250 Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects and potential witnesses being held there. Most have not been charged with a crime.

The Guantanamo directive would be one of a series of executive orders Obama is planning to issue shortly after he takes office next Tuesday, according to the two advisors. Also expected is an executive order about certain interrogation methods, but details were not immediately available Monday.

The advisors spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the orders that have not yet been finalized.

Obama's chief national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, declined comment Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the order an important first step, but demanded details on how Guantanamo will be shuttered.

"What we need are specifics about the timeline for the shuttering of the military commissions and the release or charging of detainees who have been indefinitely held for years," ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said in a statement. "An executive order lacking such detail, especially after the transition team has had months to develop a comprehensive plan on an issue this important, would be insufficient."

Obama acknowledged in an interview on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that closing the prison would be harder and longer than he initially thought.

"But I don't want to be ambiguous about this," he said. "We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution."

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