June 29, 2007
DoD Media Roundtable With Secretary Gates and Gen. Pace in the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, Va.
Q Mr. Secretary, can I ask you about Guantanamo? You have said publicly that you would like to see it closed. There have been reports that there are efforts underway to look at that a bit more seriously.
Can you tell us how seriously you're looking at closing Guantanamo, and whether you've reached any conclusion about whether that's feasible or if you're close to reaching a conclusion?
SEC. GATES: I think that, as I said when the chairman and I appeared before the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I think that the biggest challenge is finding a statutory basis for holding prisoners who should never be released and who may or may not be able to be put on trial. And I think that this is the challenged that faces both the administration and the Congress. The president said he wants to close Guantanamo. Obviously a lot of people on the Hill want to close it. We want to close it as a detainee facility.
But getting past this obstacle, this legal obstacle and finding some way in statute to permit this, whether it's a variety of administrative and appeals processes or whatever that are ultimately satisfactory to the members of the Congress, I would hope that we can work together to try and find that kind of a solution.
Q Do you feel you've made any progress since you came into office and expressed an interest in moving forward in that regard?
SEC. GATES: I think people are working harder on the problem.
Q Follow-up? Okay, same subject, if I may. You said it may not be possible to try some of these people. Why wouldn't it be, if they've done these things that you say they have?
SEC. GATES; It may depend on the nature of the information that is against them, if it involves sensitive intelligence sources or something like that.
Q I wanted to ask you about the relationship with Congress right now. You have said, in terms of confirmation hearings, that you wanted to limit the discussion about -- I think what you referred to as past mistakes. But since you have said that now, we have seen significant Republican defections on Capitol Hill, most notably Senator Lugar, from the president's Iraq war strategy.
It is interesting that the US defense secretery can make such outragreous statement and the next reporter goes on about "relationship with Congress right now"! Sign of times!