Closing Guantanamo a minefield of critical steps

Miami HeraldDecember 8, 2008 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, CUBA -- The Pentagon on Monday begins more hearings for the proposed death penalty trial of reputed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, even as President-elect Barack Obama's transition team and the Bush administration work to possibly close the Navy base prison camps.

The controversial prison camps can be closed, as Obama promised during the campaign, but military and legal experts say any exit strategy will require some key decisions.

An Obama transition team last month began meetings at the Pentagon and consulting with its own experts in pursuit of an endgame.

To empty the camps, the team must decide whether to move 250 war-on-terror detainees at Guantanamo all at once and to where, as well as how to try those accused of crimes and whether to scrap the military commissions.

On Sunday the Pentagon airlifted 50 reporters to Guantanamo to watch the proceedings, for the first time. Also on board were the parents of some of the Sept. 11 dead, killed after hijackers slammed jets into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

One architect of detention policy said the war court's days are numbered. ''I have no doubt that military commissions in their present form are going away. Gone,'' said Charles ''Cully'' Stimson, who ran detainee affairs for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "These commissions will not outlast the Bush administration. End of discussion.''

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