Gates defends decision to close Gitmo

WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says the Obama administration had no choice but to order the shutdown of the prison at Guantanamo because “the name itself is a condemnation” of US anti-terrorism strategy.

In an interview broadcast on NBC’s Today show, Gates called the facility on the island of Cuba “probably one of the finest prisons in the world today.”

But at the same time, he said it had become “a taint” on the reputation of America. Gates has served both President George W Bush and now Barack Obama at the Pentagon. In an interview taped yesterday aboard the retired World War II-era battleship USS Intrepid, the defence secretary said that once the decision was made to close Guantanamo, “the question is, where do you put them?” He said Obama would do nothing to endanger the public and said there has never been an escape from a “super-max” prison in this country. Of criticism the president’s plan would jeopardise people’s safety, Gates said: “I think that one of the points ... was that he had no interest whatsoever in releasing publicly detainees who might come back to harm Americans.”