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Are Terrorist Detainees at Gitmo 'Refugees'?


Two weeks after State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley raised some eyebrows by talking about Ambassador Dan Fried’s efforts to resettle “Guantanamo refugees” to various places around the world, the White House isn’t offering any explanation.

At the regular press briefing for reporters yesterday (October 7), I cited Crowley’s reference to the inmates at Guantanamo as “refugees”: “Are you aware of Mr. Crowley’s use of the term,” I asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, “and does the administration back it?”

The President’s top spokesman replied: “I will — for a minute I didn’t know who Philip was [Crowley is almost always referred to as “P.J.”], but I’ll see what P.J. said on that end.”

Referring not to my question about the term “refugees” but to my apparent misuse of the name the State Department spokesman is best known by, Gibbs said “I was confused at first.”  

Later, a  colleague of mine asked a follow-up question of Gibbs on Guantanamo. He noted that “Attorney General Holder said yesterday that he was concerned with the opposition to closing Guantanamo, and specifically to transferring prisoners from the facility to domestic facilities in the United States. What are you doing — what is the White House doing differently to convey that this is an important issue for the President and to convince Republican lawmakers to drop their opposition?”

“Well,” Gibbs said, “Folks here will work with Congress and in some short order discuss with them plans and progress that we think has been made to meet the President’s goal of closing Guantanamo Bay. The President believes, Attorney General Holder believes, that — Secretary of Defense Bob Gates believe that this is important for our national security and our image around the world. The President, as you know, signed the executive order and we’ve made progress and continue to work through a number of issues that have to be done in order to close the facility”

A FOOTNOTE: Sometimes the White House has promised to check on various issues that require follow-up but never gotten back to me.  On this one, they will hear about it again.