WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday visited the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the Obama administration weighs what is needed to shut the facility.
The role of the prison in the war against terrorism and the treatment of suspects held there was a continuing international controversy during the Bush administration. During the campaign, Barack Obama repeatedly pledged to close it if elected president.
Now, Obama has set a goal of shuttering the facility within a year. And a large part of Holder's visit involves talks with officials about detention and interrogation practices.
No news reporters accompanied Holder on the flight.
Holder and about a half-dozen key aides arrived at Guantanamo around midmorning Monday and they are scheduled to return to Washington Monday night.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who led a congressional delegation to Guantanamo that left shortly before Holder arrived, said he think Holder's visit is a good thing if Holder keeps an open mind.
"If he has an open mind, he would see that the detainees are treated humanely, that these are dangerous people, and I don't believe Guantanamo should be closed," said King, the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.
"I think he's going to realize the problems, as to where these people are going to go," King said. "Who's going to accept them? What we do with them?"
While at Guantanamo, Holder is talking to military officers about the case histories of specific detainees and the charges that were pending before Obama suspended military commissions as part of a top-to-bottom review of U.S. policy toward terror suspect detainees, said Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller.
Holder is also touring the facilities and the courtroom complex created for the now-suspended military commissions.
There are an estimated 245 detainees at the site, although the number was reduced by one this weekend when officials shipped out detainee Binyam Mohammed.
As it happened, Mohammed arrived in England the same day that Holder visited Guantanamo.
Mohammed is the first Guantanamo detainee to be transferred under the Obama-ordered review of all the site's detainees.
Holder said in a statement that the U.S. greatly appreciates the help of the British government on Mohammed's transfer.
Mohammed claims that before he was sent to Guantanamo, he was handed over to U.S. operatives and sent to Morocco, where he was tortured.
Associated Press writer Kimberly Hefling contributed to this report.