GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Prison camp staff are making no plans for the lifetime detention of 48 captives who the Obama administration has determined will not be released even if they are never charged with a crime, the admiral in charge of the detention center said Wednesday.
"We go day by day right now," Navy Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson said in a wide-ranging interview with eight journalists on the base for a pre-trial hearing in the case of an alleged terrorist trainer. "We're operating on the Executive Order to close, and that's our guidance. So we haven't addressed that, looked at that."
Harbeson, just three months on the job as the 10th prison camps commander, described an air of uncertainty at the detention center, where he said President Barack Obama's closure order still governs, eight months after the camps were supposed to be emptied.
No member of Congress has visited Guantanamo during the past three months, he said. The Department of Defense is still developing a policy for how to imprison a war criminal whose guilty plea deal included a promise that he'd be imprisoned with his fellow detainees.
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Meantime, he said, "We're prepared" to shutter the camps once a solution is found on where to put the 174 foreign men currently held at the detention center .
Some have been held here since the camps first opened in January 2002.
Congress has used its purse strings to block Obama administration plans to empty the camps within a year, moving some to detention on U.S. soil and releasing others by Jan. 22.
Instead, the Justice Department has presided over an elaborate review process of each detainee that concluded that 48 of the men can never be tried but are also too dangerous to set free. The Obama administration has said it would like to buy an unused prison in Illinois to house the prisoners, but Congress has not approved the funding.
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