WASHINGTON (CNN) - A coalition of retired generals and liberal activists joined forces Tuesday launching a $100,000 ad campaign - and multi-million dollar national grassroots effort - aimed at pressuring members of Congress to support President Obama's endeavor to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The 30-second spot, called "Close Gitmo Now," hit the airwaves Tuesday on network and cable television nationwide. It accuses Congress of being complacent in continuing policies from the Bush-Cheney administration.
"We want torture ended and we want to build the political base of support for those members of Congress who are willing to stand up," John Soltz, who heads the liberal veterans group VoteVets.org, told reporters on a conference-call Tuesday.
The "Campaign to Close Guantanamo," spearheaded by former Maine Rep. Tom Andrews, said they plan to move forward by targeting specific congressional districts in an attempt to restrain American's apprehension and possible fear of closing the prison. They did not say which districts they may focus on.
Update 7:43 p.m.: The Board of Directors of Keep America Safe, a conservative group focused on foreign policy issues, has responded in a statement to the new ad. "Guantanamo Bay is a secure, safe, humane facility where terrorists can be held, and when appropriate, tried. Americans expect their President to defend them from terrorists, not usher terrorists into the homeland," the group's directors said in a statement e-mailed to CNN.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – White House Counsel Greg Craig is trying to put to rest rumors that his time as the president’s top in-house lawyer is coming to an untimely end, according to a report by the National Law Journal.
"'I have no plans to leave whatsoever,'" Craig reportedly told the legal publication. "'The rumors that I'm about to leave are false. The reports that I'm about to leave are wrong. I have no plans to leave.'"
As the Obama administration has begun to send signals that it may not meet its own one-year deadline for closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a deadline that that the new administration set for itself with much fanfare on President Obama’s first full day in office, Craig has found himself increasingly subject to rumors that he is headed out of the White House.
In the interview with the National Law Journal, Craig denied a September 25 report by the Washington Post that he had played a leading role in developing the administration’s initial plan to close the controversial facility by late January 2010.
To address the setbacks it encountered in closing the facility, “the administration has shifted its leadership team on the issue,” the Post’s September 25 report said. “White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, who initially guided the effort to close the prison and who was an advocate of setting the deadline, is no longer in charge of the project,” the Post reported, citing two senior Obama administration officials.
But Craig says the Post’s report is inaccurate.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledges that closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will likely take longer than planned.
"I think it has proven more complicated than ... anticipated," Gates said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Noting he had pushed for a firm deadline of closing the controversial facility in January 2010, Gates said: "If you have to extend that date, if at least you have a strong plan showing you're making progress in that direction, then this - it shouldn't be a problem to extend it and we'll just see whether that has to happen or not."
In a separate interview on the ABC program "This Week," Gates said closing the military prison on schedule would be "tough."
Also on ABC, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he attended briefings in which he was told the Guantanamo facility was unlikely to close on schedule.
"Apparently they're certainly not going to make that deadline," McCain said. "But we should continue to work towards the closure of Guantanamo Bay because of the image that it has in the world of brutality, (which) harms our image very badly."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Federal officials will travel to Standish, Michigan, on Thursday to tour a state prison that could be used to house terror suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. government officials said Wednesday.
Among those who will check out the facility, the officials said, will be representatives from the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons.
One administration official stressed no decision has been made about where to relocate Guantanamo detainees. Multiple options are under consideration. That official added Thursday's visit is simply to gather information about the prison.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The nation's chief intelligence official says the Obama administration moved back the deadline of its review of the government's terrorist detention and interrogation policies because it wants to get it right.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said Wednesday the delay is "a mark of the seriousness with which we are taking it and have really taken the time to get the answer right."
The White House announced on Monday that it would take another six months to complete a report detailing its policy on detentions and an additional two months to finish the review of its interrogation procedures. The reports were to have been completed this week, according to the executive orders signed by President Barack Obama shortly after taking office in January.
A decision on how to handle the suspected terrorists detained in the detention facility in the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a critical component of the administration's plan to close the facility by January.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In a move already drawing fire from liberal activists, aides to President Barack Obama acknowledged the administration will miss its own Tuesday deadline to submit a repor detailing its policy on detaining terror suspects.
The report is a key part of laying out the White House's plan for shutting down the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
In a briefing for reporters, four senior administration officials confirmed the task force dealing with detention policy has been granted a six-month extension to flesh out its plans, while a separate task force dealing with interrogation policy has been given a two-month extension to submit its own report to the president. The reports had been mandated to be completed this week by executive orders the president signed during his first week in office.
HARDIN, Montana (CNN) - The tiny town of Hardin, Montana, is offering an answer to a very thorny question: Where should the nation put terror detainees if the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is shut down by the end of the year as President Obama has pledged?
Hardin, population 3,400, sits in the southeast corner of Montana, in the state's poorest county. Its small downtown is almost deserted at midday. The Dollar Store is going out of business. The Hardin Mini Mall is already shut. The town needs jobs - and fast.
Hardin borrowed $27 million through bonds to build the Two Rivers Regional Correctional Facility in hopes of creating new employment opportunities. The jail was ready for prisoners two years ago, but has yet to house a single prisoner.
People here say politics in the capital of Helena has kept it empty. But the city council last month voted 5-0 to back a proposal to bring Gitmo detainees - some of the most hardened terrorists in the world - to the facility.
ROME, Italy (CNN) - Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Monday that his country will consider accepting an unspecified number of detainees from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In an interview with CNN, Berlusconi said Italy is prepared to help the United States deal with terrorism by allowing Guantanamo detainees to be relocated there.
"If we can do this favor for the American people and the U.S. government, we will certainly do it," he said. Asked how many detainees Italy might take, he said it was too soon to say.
"We feel that we should do everything possible to support the United States and we can't expect them to fight for all of us single-handedly," Berlusconi said. "Terrorism is a phenomenon that affects us all."
His statement is likely welcome news for President Barack Obama, whose plan to close the Guantanamo facility by January 2010 has come under criticism from both Democrats and Republicans who fear the possible relocation of suspected terrorists to U.S. soil. Obama has insisted the Guantanamo facility can be closed and detainees relocated without endangering U.S. national security.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder's Guantanamo Review Task Force is struggling to sort the prison detainees into five neatly ordered lists, as government lawyers try to somehow fashion a plan which will clear expected legal challenges while satisfying skeptical lawmakers and a nervous public.
Every turn appears more complicated as the weeks pass.
On the immediate heels of a demand by Congress for a clear and specific plan for emptying Guantanamo, one of President Barack Obama's top aides, David Axelrod, promised Thursday that Congress would receive such a plan, and declared the president's address Thursday represented a "framework for a plan." Administration officials indicate the plan itself is probably months away.
During an address on national security at the National Archives in Washington, Obama defended his decision to close the detention center at Guantanamo, and he outlined categories in which to separate the remaining detainees.
The framework calls for putting the names of the 240 remaining detainees into five piles, then trying to resolve the legal complexities of each.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Preliminary intelligence assessments show more than 14 percent of detainees released from Guantanamo Bay have returned or are suspected of having returned to terrorism activities, an administration official with knowledge of the Defense Department's information told CNN.
That number, which reflects data through the beginning of 2009, has gone up slightly from statistics compiled through the end of 2008, when the recidivism rate was considered to be 11 percent, according to the administration official. It had been at 7 percent in earlier years, but the Pentagon has not disclosed what time frame that encompasses.
The official emphasized the latest data is still being verified within the military intelligence community, but it appears likely to show that the rate of recidivism has now reached more than 14 percent.