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Powell: Obama Didn't Handle Gitmo Well

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that President Obama did "not handle" his decision to close Guantanamo Bay detainment facility "very well," on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

"I think President Obama didn't handle it very well by going up to the Congress and asking for $80 million without a plan. And by, frankly, giving enough time to opponents of it to marshal their forces as to why we shouldn't do this," he said.

Powell said that he has lobbied for Guantanamo to be closed or the last six years and that he went to his boss, former President Bush, with his concerns.

He even said that President Bush wanted to close the prison, but could not figure out how to- a point he used to answer criticism from former Vice President Dick Cheney.

"Mr. Cheney is not only disagreeing with President Obama's policy. He's disagreeing with President Bush's policy. President Bush stated repeatedly to international audiences and to the country that he wanted to close Guantanamo. The problem he had was he couldn't get all the pieces together," Powell said.

He said he was not buying "the business" that the United States would be less safe should the prisoners be transported to U.S. prisons.

Schieffer pushed whether he believed that released Guantanamo prisoners could safely come to U.S. jails and Powell said "yes" repeatedly.

"I think it should have been done immediately and not start looking for $80 million to build prisons," he argued.

He said the hardcore problem is that in many of the cases of these prisoners there is not sufficient evidence to keep them locked up. Powell hopes that new legislation drafted with the cooperation of all branches of government should help alleviate some of the legal red tape.

Powell said he has told President Obama all of his concerns and worries that the president gave his opponents too much time to react to the plan. He hopes that the politicizing of the decision will start to die down.

He defended the Bush administration, saying that immediately following 9/11 they reacted by shutting down the visa system and locking suspects up. But he said that must change.

"We can't keep moving in that direction with putting people in jail forever without resolving their cases. We're not letting people come to our country," he argued.

More from Face The Nation (5.24.09):

  • Powell: Cheney's "Misinformed"
  • Read the complete transcript