'Special Report' Panel on Fate of Guantanamo Bay

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from January 22, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: The United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism, and we are going to do so vigilantly, we are going to do so effectively, and we are going to do so in a matter that is consistent with our values and our ideals.

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: Having a policy in place that says w e're going to close Guantanamo without having a plan in place, I think is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.


BRET BAIER, HOST: There you see President Obama after signing executive orders today, and reaction from the House Minority Leader John Boehner.

The executive orders he signed ended the CIA secret overseas prisons, banned coercive interrogation techniques, and also promised to close Guantanamo Bay, the detention facility there, within one year. What about all of this?

Some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

Charles, on the details, Mr. Obama decided to set up a Cabinet-level review for some of the most challenging aspects of the national security issues here.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Exactly, because he doesn't undo the conundrums. The problems are still here. These steps will get him a lot of sweeping applause from abroad and from the American left, but he knows he's got issues.

In the closing of Guantanamo, he faces the same problem that the Bush administration had, and he doesn't have answers. He wants to have some of the prisoners return home, but there are countries who won't take them. He wants some of them tried in American courts. OK, but there are a large number who can't be tried in American courts.

And he will ultimately end up with a version of the military commissions.

On the interrogation, there is even a larger loophole here. Apparently he is abolishing anything that is not in the army manual, which the CIA has complained about.

But when the White House counsel, Greg Craig was over at CIA and talked with the officials and got a lot of complaints, he said that the White House is open to expanding interrogation techniques in the future beyond what's allowed in the army field manual. And that's what this new study will conduct.

So it means as of now, if we capture Usama, all we can do is offer him a cigarette and ask him his name. But I'm sure that will change in time, because we are going to need serious interrogation of serious jihadists.

BAIER: Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes, that's what I understand from the White House, is that, in the meantime, while this panel is reviewing things, they're going to stick to the army field manual.

And don't forget, this is a big symbolic step he took, to say he's going to close Guantanamo on his second day in office within a year. He has bought himself some time, and they have to figure out what to do with category three.

The category three are the guys who are too dangerous to let out, and you can't try either them because you do have enough, or the evidence is tainted by, we assume, because they were tortured. But Admiral Blair said today in his testimony that there is this possibility of — the new national director of intelligence — that there is the possibility of the CIA being able to have additional — he's not calling them "enhanced interrogation techniques," but they would be somehow in addition to the army field manual.

And there would be difference guidance for what you do on the battlefield, or when you actually have somebody that you brought somewhere and put in a room.

But they have set up a process.

BAIER: How will that —

LIASSON: I think what he did today will make the left very happy. He has already gotten a huge round of applause.

Over time, when they finally figure all this out, I think things will look different. And, no, a lot of this won't be known. Exactly what the guidance is to the CIA, that won't ever be spelled out.

I think he has done the right thing politically. He has bought himself some time. In a year, Guantanamo will be closed, and there is consensus on that.

And, as Boehner was warning, these people won't necessarily be brought here. Maybe they will be brought to Afghanistan.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You mean Afghanistan will be the new Guantanamo?

LIASSON: We just don't he know.

BARNES: Look, they can't come here. And already there is a political issue that Republicans have jumped that they want to bar the federal courts from ordering any of them here.

Look, there will be a new Guantanamo. They will have to put them somewhere. They can't bring them here. They have to put them somewhere. And my one question about this is why do this now, except for symbolic PR reasons, when you haven't the slightest idea where to send them?

Look, the notion that the 60 who the Bush administration would like to have sent back to their own country or some other country but nobody would take them, that suddenly Obama is going to be able to sweet talk some country into taking them, or countries, I think that's a little naive.

And so, what are you going to do to these people? I mean, take Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11. You can't send him to the United States and have him tried in a federal court. What if the court threw out his confession? Would you be able to convict him of any crime? I mean, you can't let the guy go.

I think they will find out how hard it is to close down Guantanamo. I suspect they won't close it down in a year, because if they do, they will just have to open another one.

Announcing it gives Obama a nice day, and I'm sure they'll cheer in Paris and London and Bonn, and places like that. But he's got a tough job ahead of him figuring out actually what to do.

BAIER: Last word on this topic.

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, the policy today is shiny and new and attractive around the world, but it's going to get subtle and changed internally.

As Mara has said, some of these will not be known, and it is not going to be the transparency that all of us have been promised. So that's going to happen in the future, and I think it will help us, because it's going to be needed.

BAIER: Coming up, after a smooth campaign, very smooth, the first hours of the Obama presidency have not exactly been glitch-free. The panel weighs in on that after the break.



OBAMA: Joe, you want to administer the oath?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Am I doing this again?

OBAMA: For the senior staff. A number of Cabinet members have...

BIDEN: All right. My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts.



BAIER: OK. A couple of moments that didn't go as scripted over the first couple of days of the Obama presidency.

The press office in action — first press briefing today. Journalists had a lot of tough questions about process. We're back with the panel. Mara, you spent the last two days over there. What about how the operation is running?

LIASSON: Pretty chaotic, but it is the first couple of days. And this is a group of people who ran an incredibly well choreographed and efficient campaign, and I can't imagine why they can't get this together in the next couple of weeks. I think if we're still talking about these problems in three weeks, they're really in trouble.

There are a lot of different levels to this. Biden is a story in and of himself — the jokes, and maybe the inappropriate one — Obama didn't seem like he liked that today. But deciding what to do with the press, and not having a pooler or a camera in when he took this oath of office for the second time, that was clearly a mistake.

BAIER: There you see a picture of —

LIASSON: A White House picture-because the purpose of doing it the second time is, basically, so that wingnuts around the world wouldn't say he's really not the president because he wasn't sworn in properly. They decided to do that just out of an abundance of caution, but they didn't let the press in to record it independently.

Look, I think they're having a hard time figuring out where the light switches are and the computer, the e-mail accounts and phone numbers. I think they will get this together. It has been a little rocky.

The other thing is they are trying to do a tremendous amount of things in the first couple of days, a big flurry of executive orders and events. And, yes, it was rocky, but it won't matter if they can get things together.

BAIER: President Obama took a tour of the White House Briefing Room this evening. Major Garrett toured him around, too. You can see beyond there, shaking hands, Fred, maybe trying to smooth things over a little bit after a couple of rocky days?

BARNES: You know, Bret, I don't see why we should beat around the Bush. Let's just declare the Obama presidency failed! You know, some of the people in the pressroom couldn't log on their computers, and, you know, there were a few glitches.

I mean, geez. I mean, this is ridiculous. I mean, I think the press is acting ludicrous in this whole thing.

And then just think when events — after a while, just wait, after awhile, a few weeks, events will be perfectly choreographed, and they'll start complaining about this White House—it has no soul. It has — you know, there's no spontaneity here. Everything is choreographed perfectly.

Look, I'm not a particular fan of Obama, but give these people a break, for heaven's sake.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Obama has been OK. He's controlled. He knows what he's doing.

The unfortunate swearing in episode in the inaugural was not his fault. It was Roberts who had to memorize, what, 27 words — and couldn't handle it. And I thought Obama handled it rather well.

I think the Obama problem in the future is going to be Biden. He is a gaffe machine. He was sort of hidden in the campaign because of that.

But if you look at the expression that Obama had on his face when he made that — when Biden made the unfortunate joke about the chief justice, for a man as contained and controlled at as Obama, that was an expression of rage. He touched him on the elbow. That was serious. Daggers were sent out.

I think they will keep Biden in a box for the next four years or eight, if necessary, because he is a man who, unlike Obama, is undisciplined, and he could be a problem.

BAIER: Mara, Robert Gibbs, his first press briefing today?

LIASSON: I thought it was a pretty good debut. Clearly, it takes a while to get up to speed. He definitely sought refuge in his talking points a lot, because that's where it's safe and comfortable.

He did, I think quite rightly and professionally, answer one question - - actually, it was from Major — saying I have to get some guidance from Greg Craig, which is correct rather than trying to wing it and say something that turned out to be inaccurate or he had to correct.

He clearly was happiest when he was talking about the first family and how they were getting used to their new digs, and the president's blackberry.

And, look, these things are tough. These are big, big problems. And he will have to get used to this.

BARNES: And one thing — whenever the press uses perfection as its standard, they're going to be unfair. Politics and government can never be perfect.

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