POLITICS
06/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Webb Criticizes Obama's Guantanamo Strategy As Unreasonable

Sen. Jim Webb no longer believes President Obama's schedule for closing down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay is reasonable, claiming on Sunday that the decision was dictated by "artificial timelines" and that some terrorism suspects should be tried at the facility.

"Guantanamo has become the issue rather than how we process these people who were detained there. Let's process them with the right rules of law, the right due process within the constraints of how we have to handle these cases," said Webb on ABC's This Week. "But the facility is there at Guantanamo to do it, and then close it down."

As for the date to actually shut down the facility, the Virginia Democrat said he would "defer to the judgment of the administration who is looking at this." Reminded that the administration wanted Gitmo closed by January, Webb responded: "They have said a lot of things, taken a look and said some other things."

The remarks were a departure from the Senator's earlier position, which he forthrightly acknowledged. Asked if he still believed the deadline for closing Gitmo within the year was reasonable, Webb responded: "I don't actually," adding that his change of heart came after "having sat down with my staff and gone through the numbers in detail and looking at the facilities that have been built there."

The Senator also emphatically declared that he opposes having some detainees, including the Chinese Uighurs, transferred to his home state of Virginia. A federal judge ruled last October that the Uighurs detained at Guantanamo were not terrorist threats and should be released.

While Webb did demand that this group and others be granted "due process in the right kind of environment" -- he said he supports the administration's decision to use an updated form of the special military tribunals -- he argued that some Uighurs had been trained by al Qaeda and should not be allowed into the United States.

The remarks are a blow to the White House and Democratic Party as they seek to frame the closing Guantamano as an issue of sound law rather than national security politics. Despite having served only briefly in the Senate, Webb is an influential foreign policy voice in the party. His position on the closure of Gitmo, however, is likely influenced by the chance that some detainees would be transferred to his home state.

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