Holder: Obama Administration Still Working To Close Gitmo Before 2012

Perhaps file this one under wishful thinking: Attorney General Eric Holder told the European Parliament on Tuesday that the Obama administration is hoping to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay before the 2012 election.

The Obama administration, Holder said, wants to close the facility “as quickly as possible, recognizing that we will face substantial pressure.”“We will be pressing for the closure of the facility between now and then – and after that election, we will try to close it as well,” Holder said. “Some people have made this a political issue without looking at, I think, the real benefits that would flow from the closure of the facility.”

Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino praised Holder’s remarks, saying in a statement that it was “good to hear the Obama Administration reiterate its commitment to closing the Guantanamo detention facility and put that commitment on a timeline.”

“To follow through on this commitment, the administration will need to stand up to congressional and political opposition,” Massimino said. “A good start would be by issuing a veto threat on legislation, like the Senate version of the defense authorization bill, that threatens to continue the failed policies that have kept Gitmo open.”

Holder also stood by the Obama administration’s commitment to using civilian courts to prosecute terrorism cases in a speech before the United Nations on Monday.

“Let me be very clear: The United States is firmly committed to the rule of law approach enshrined in this framework and to strengthening the capacity of civilian courts around the world, which have time and again shown their effectiveness at bringing terrorists to justice,” Holder said.

Holder spoke before the EU’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on Tuesday, where he stressed the need for international data sharing with proper privacy protections.

“We now have before us an opportunity – an opportunity to further advance our joint commitment to working together to fight crime and terrorism, while also protecting civil liberties and personal privacy. We can do so by extending the proven data protection provisions in the U.S./EU Europol, Eurojust, and Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements across the full range of law enforcement sharing between the U.S. and EU Member States,” Holder said.

“I should stress that such sharing already is subject to extensive data protection guarantees at the domestic level – and again, I am aware of no violations of those guarantees,” Holder said. “But now we have a chance – to consolidate those guarantees in an umbrella data protection and privacy agreement that will provide further assurances to our citizens.”

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