Mukasey: ‘I Can’t Simply Say We Have To Close Guantanamo’

Under questioning from Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) in his confirmation hearings today, Attorney General nominee Mike Mukasey refused to say whether he would recommend to President Bush that Guantanamo Bay prison be closed:

KOHL: Are you prepared to recommend to the President that we close Guantanamo?

MUKASEY: I’m prepared to recommend to the President that we take the responsible course in dealing with the people at Guantanamo. I can’t simply say we have to close Guantanamo because obviously the question there arises of what we do with the people who are there.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/10/mukaseygitmo1.320.240.flv]

Mukasey claimed Guantanamo was high on his list of priorities, “along with filling vacancies.” But he only went as far as to say his “goal” is to close Guantanamo, aligning himself with President Bush’s aspirational commitments:

I’m prepared to say that we need to get the best advice and the best ideas that we can and act responsibly, with the goal of closing it down because it’s hurting us … As regards to this President, I think I’d be preaching to the converter. I think he understands that.

In June, when the Bush administration was said to have “engaged in active discussions” about closing Guantanamo, there was reportedly “significant opposition from Vice President Cheney as well as from the Justice [Department],” then led by Alberto Gonzales.

If confirmed, it appears that Mukasey’s Justice Department will also hold that Guantanamo should not be “immediately closed.”

UPDATE: Mukasey said torture is “antithetical” to American values.