Reporting on his role in "reviewing the current conditions" at Guantánamo, Politico ignored Gates' previous calls to close it

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

Reporting on Defense Secretary Robert Gates' role in "reviewing the current conditions" at Guantánamo "to make sure they're legal and follow the Geneva Convention," the Politico asserted that it "seems doubtful" Gates "will suddenly find conditions that were just fine on Monday of this week are now flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention," suggesting that Gates disagrees with President Barack Obama's order to close Guantánamo. In fact, Gates has repeatedly stated -- both publicly and reportedly to senior Bush administration officials -- that the facilities should be closed.

In a January 23 Politico article, Josh Gerstein reported that a section of President Barack Obama's January 22 executive order regarding the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay "orders Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to spend the next thirty days reviewing the current conditions at the Caribbean prison to make sure they're legal and follow the Geneva Convention." Gerstein added: "It seems doubtful that Gates, who has been atop the chain of command for Guantanamo for more than two years, will suddenly find conditions that were just fine on Monday of this week are now flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention." But in reporting that Gates believes "conditions" at Guantánamo are "just fine," Gerstein suggested that Gates disagrees with President Barack Obama's order to close the prison. In fact, Gates has repeatedly stated -- both publicly and reportedly to senior Bush administration officials -- that Guantánamo should be closed.

Gates' efforts to close Guantánamo reportedly date back to the beginning of his tenure as defense secretary under former President Bush, a position he assumed in December 2006. According to a March 2007 New York Times article:

In his first weeks as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates repeatedly argued that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantánamo would be viewed as illegitimate, according to senior administration officials. He told President Bush and others that it should be shut down as quickly as possible.

Similarly, in a June 22, 2007, article, "The Endgame for Guantanamo," Time magazine reported that Gates "has signaled he would like to close Guantanamo" but noted resistance within the administration from "[n]eo-conservative hard-liners, clustered around Vice President Dick Cheney, [who] would like to keep the camp open." Also, The Wall Street Journal noted in a December 3, 2008, article that Gates "was one of the first senior members of the Bush cabinet to push publicly for the Guantanamo prison's closure, but his calls largely fell on deaf ears."

After Obama selected Gates to stay on as defense secretary, Gates repeated his prior calls to close the detention camp. The Journal reported in its December 3 article headlined, "Gates Seeks Congress's Help in Closing Guantanamo," that "Gates said closing the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay is a 'high priority,' and he called on Congress to work with the new administration on legislation to make it happen." Similarly, in a December 17, 2008, interview with PBS' Charlie Rose, highlighted by Think Progress, Gates said of Guantánamo, "I would like to see it closed. And I think it will be a high priority for the new administration."

Additionally, Agence France-Press reported in a December 19, 2008, article, that Gates "ordered aides to prepare a plan for closing the Guantanamo prison, a declared priority for president-elect Barack Obama, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday."

From Politico's January 23 article, "Why the Gitmo policies may not change":

2. Obama ordered a 30-day review of Guantanamo conditions -- by the man currently responsible for Guantanamo.

A section of Obama's order on Guantanamo entitled "Humane Standards of Confinement" orders Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to spend the next thirty days reviewing the current conditions at the Caribbean prison to make sure they're legal and follow the Geneva Convention. It seems doubtful that Gates, who has been atop the chain of command for Guantanamo for more than two years, will suddenly find conditions that were just fine on Monday of this week are now flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention.

"He's not exactly impartial," [Yale Law School lecturer Ramzi] Kassem said.

[Columbia law professor Matthew] Waxman pointed out that adhering to the Geneva Condition is "already the law," and deemed that section of the order "bizarre."

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