WASHINGTON Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday the Guantanamo detention center is a well-run, professional facility that will be difficult to close but he's still going to do it.
Holder visited the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Monday and spoke to reporters about his trip during a news conference Wednesday.
Closing Guantanamo, he said, "will not be an easy process. It's one we will do in a way that ensures that people are treated fairly and that the American people are kept safe."
President Barack Obama selected Holder to lead the new administration's effort to close the detention facility within a year.
Much of the year will be spent reviewing the individual case histories of the roughly 245 inmates, the attorney general said.
"It's going to take us a good portion of that time to look at all of the files that we have to examine, until we get our hands around what Guantanamo is, and also what Guantanamo was," he said.
Holder said his visit to the site was instructive. He met with military officials and toured the facilities, including the court setting where military commissions were to be held until Obama suspended them.
He said he did not witness any rough treatment of detainees, and in fact found the military staff and leadership performing admirably.
"I did not witness any mistreatment of prisoners. I think, to the contrary, what I saw was a very conscious attempt by these guards to conduct themselves in an appropriate way," he said.
The attorney general said none of those impressions alters the administration's goal of closing Guantanamo by January 2010.
"It does not in any way decrease our determination to close the facility, even though as I said it is being well-run now," he said.
In his confirmation hearings before the Senate, Holder said lawyers will have to examine each detainee's case, and determine who can be brought to the U.S. for a criminal trial, sent to foreign countries or tried and held by the U.S. in some other fashion.