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Despite Hurdles, White House Sticking to Gitmo Deadline

The White House is sticking to a plan to close the prison complex at Guantanamo Bay by Jan. 22, despite mounting opposition in Congress to relocating terror suspects inside the U.S. With less than four months until the administration's deadline arrives, experts examine the remaining options.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So why is closing Guantanamo proving so difficult? Here to explain further are Evan Perez, Justice Department correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, and Dafna Linzer, senior reporter for ProPublica, an independent nonprofit news Web site that features original and investigative reporting.

    Welcome to you both.

    Dr. Linzer, beginning with you, what has gone awry here with the president's plan to close Guantanamo by next January?

  • DAFNA LINZER, ProPublica:

    I think there's been a few things, and one is the concept of a plan that hasn't just happened. It hasn't been put forward at all, which was one of the things that members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, were so upset about in May when they cut off funding for moving any detainees onto U.S. soil.

    I think another thing was that there was no one single person put in charge in an administration full of czars and special envoys. There wasn't one leading figure to oversee all the different components of closing Guantanamo, overseeing what was going on in Congress, reporting on the progress of the task forces inside the Justice Department, and sort of holding it all together. And I think that those two things were problematic.

    And then, of course, the deadline, which a lot of people in the administration believed, as we just heard Secretary Gates say, was a good idea and that it got people moving, but without that initial plan in place, a lot of the people inside the administration working on the issue were just kind of left looking at the clock and worrying about the time.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    What would you add to that, Evan?

  • EVAN PEREZ, Wall Street Journal:

    Well, you know, the administration clearly made several miscalculations. The president knew that the former President Bush and even his opponent in the November election, John McCain, both said that they thought the prison should be closed, so they made the calculation that there wouldn't be opposition necessarily for it.

    And in addition, the president decided and the White House decided that they didn't want to spend political capital on this. They had legislative priorities, including health care and energy and so on, that they wanted to dedicate to, and they didn't want anything drawing attention away from those issues. So in the end, they decided not — to go quietly on this issue.

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