Mukasey Makes First Trip to Guantanamo

Attorney general reviews facility, meets with lawyers working on detainee cases.

ByJason Ryan and Theresa Cook

Feb. 27, 2008— -- Attorney General Michael Mukasey made his first visit to the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Wednesday. He planned to assess the detention center and discuss upcoming military trials for six detainees, according to a Justice Department spokesman.

"The visit provided him with the opportunity to see firsthand the state-of-the-art detention facility at the station," spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement.

"During the visit, he also met with military personnel and other officials involved in the military commission's proceedings," Carr continued. "Justice Department prosecutors assigned to the high-value detainee cases have been involved in the investigation since the high-value detainees were moved to Guantanamo Bay."

Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced charges against six Guantanamo detainees for their alleged roles in the Sept. 11 attacks. The government is seeking the death penalty for all defendants.

The accused men face an array of charges, including conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, and providing material support for terrorism.

The government says the men will be afforded the same rights as any soldier charged under military law, such as the right to remain silent, the right to counsel, and the ability to review evidence and call their own witnesses.

Despite those assurances, trial by military commission has been criticized as a move by the administration of President George W. Bush to circumvent the federal courts system.

During his confirmation hearings last October, Mukasey said he viewed the Guantanamo Bay facility as "a kind of no man's land of jurisdiction" and admitted that "detaining people apparently without end" is giving the United States a "black eye."

He also said the government should have the ultimate goal of closing the prison down "because it's hurting us."

Last August, before he was nominated to replace then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the retired federal judge wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, using the case of now-convicted terrorist Jose Padilla to illustrate that "current institutions and statutes are not well-suited to even the limited task of supplementing what became, after Sept. 11, 2001, principally a military effort to combat Islamic terrorism."

Mukasey urged lawmakers to "turn their considerable talents to deliberating how to fix a strained and mismatched legal system, before another cataclysm calls forth from the people demands for hastier and harsher results."

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