Last night, the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration was “nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” and that senior officials were “expected to discuss the move at the White House on Friday.”
The White House originally denied there was a scheduled White House meeting to discuss the topic. During a press briefing today, White House spokesperson Dana Perino confirmed that the White House had tried to mislead the public:
Yes, there was going to be a meeting today. But there was a determination that it wasn’t needed. … I think that the decision to not have the meeting happened late in the day after that story came out.
Perino confirmed that the closure of Guantanamo was a focus of the meeting. “The meeting was going to be focusing on doing what the president has asked them to do for the past few years, which is work to get the facility closed,” said Perino. “I wasn’t there to decide why the meeting was canceled,” she said. “All I know is that the meeting was canceled.” Watch it:
Vice President Dick Cheney is not interested in closing Guantanamo. The Washington Post reported today that “there has been significant opposition from Vice President Cheney as well as from the Justice and Homeland Security departments.” It appears the forces against the Guantanamo closure will use any excuse — including the release of a tepid AP article — to delay what needs to be done.
QUESTION: Can we go on to Guantanamo?
QUESTION: Was there a meeting scheduled for today to discuss Guantanamo?
PERINO: There’s meetings scheduled regularly to talk about Guantanamo. They happen frequently, they happen often because people are charged with the responsibilities that the president has given them to try to close down that facility.
Yes, there was going to be a meeting today. But there was a determination that it wasn’t needed.
QUESTION: Was it because of the AP story?
PERINO: I think that the decision to not have the meeting happened late in the day after that story came out.
What I can tell you is that meeting was not a decisional meeting, there was nothing imminent coming out of that meeting and that there are people who are tasked with working on this issue every day — not only here at the White House, but at the Defense Department, State Department and other agencies — to make sure that we are figuring out a way to repatriate these individuals so they can go back to their countries in a way that we can make sure that they’re going to be held and not a threat to anybody else, as well as be treated humanely.
QUESTION: Are you nearing a decision? Was there anything different about this meeting? Are these meetings (inaudible) secretary of state? Was there something different? Was this going to be a focus?
PERINO: Well, the meeting was going to be focusing on doing what the president has asked them to do for the past few years, which is work to get the facility closed.
I think that report was overblown. There was not an imminent decision made. There’s no deadline. It was just a regular meeting.
QUESTION: (inaudible) it was imminent. I mean, was this…
PERINO: It did say it was imminent.
QUESTION: Why would you — they said they were nearing a decision. Why would you cancel a meeting after a press report about that?
PERINO: There was a decision that a meeting wasn’t necessary.
But that should not lead you to think that there aren’t people who are either talking about it today or working toward it.
PERINO: In fact, I think today…
QUESTION: Why wasn’t the meeting necessary?
I mean, the timing was a little strange. And then the White House was able to say, There’s no meeting scheduled for tomorrow when you started getting press reports. Was the meeting canceled because of the press report?
PERINO: I wasn’t there to decide why the meeting was canceled.
All I know is that the meeting was canceled. It wasn’t — I was told that it wasn’t necessary to have it.