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Obama to order Guantanamo Bay prison closed

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  • President-elect Barack Obama plans to sign order closing Guantanamo Bay prison
  • Obama says legal framework must be worked out before "Gitmo" can be closed
  • Military prison holds terrorist suspects, including mastermind of 9/11 attacks
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By Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President-elect Barack Obama plans to order the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay as early as his first week in office to show a break from the Bush administration's approach to the war on terror, according to two officials close to the transition.

President-elect Barack Obama is expected to sign an order closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

President-elect Barack Obama is expected to sign an order closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

One of the officials said it would be in keeping with Obama's campaign promise to shut down the prison through executive order, a move which was also pushed by last year's Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.

"The president-elect has repeatedly said the legal framework at Gitmo has failed to successfully and swiftly prosecute terrorists," said one of the officials close to the transition, who was not authorized to speak publicly about private deliberations.

Such a move would reassure those concerned after Obama's recent public comments suggested he may not immediately shut the prison down.Video Watch what may delay Gitmo's closing »

"It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize and we are going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication," Obama said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday when asked whether he would close the prison in his first 100 days.

Obama also said he was trying to develop a process that "adheres to rule of law" but "doesn't result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up."

"I think it's going to take some time and our legal teams are working in consultation with our national security apparatus as we speak, to help design exactly what we need to do," Obama said.

"But I don't want to be ambiguous about this. We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution," he said.

The military prison at Guantanamo Bay is a major issue because for critics of the Bush administration, it has become a symbol of mismanagement and overreach in the war on terror.


At his final White House press conference on Monday, President Bush was asked whether the military prison and harsh interrogation tactics have damaged America's standing in the world. What should Obama do first?

"I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged," Bush said. "It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom; that America is a country that provides such great hope."

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