The Obama administration on Monday pushed back its own deadline for devising new anti-terrorism policies.
The decision had been expected, as presidentially appointed task forces have failed to meet a six-month schedule for making policy recommendations on how terror suspects should be interrogated, held in custody or handed over to other countries.
Senior administration officials said Monday that the report on detention will be delayed six months and the report on interrogation and transfer policy will be delayed two months.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue on the record.
As the administration quietly acknowledged the delay, a task force sent Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates a preliminary report summarizing their legal goals for handling terror suspects in the future.
"Where appropriate, prosecution of those responsible must occur as soon as possible, whether in federal court or before a military commission," according to the five-page memo on detention policy sent to the White House.
"Justice cannot be done, however, unless those who are accused of crimes are proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that affords them a full and fair opportunity to contest the charges against them," the memo concludes.
Cases being reviewed
The Obama administration has reached the halfway mark in its self-imposed goal to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by January 2010.
Six months after President Barack Obama signed the closure order, fewer than 20 of about 245 inmates have been transferred out of the U.S. military base in Cuba. Currently, there are 229 detainees at Guantanamo, and the administration, by its own clock, has six months more to remove them.
Government lawyers are reviewing each case individually and have so far finished the reviews of more than half of the detainees.
More than 50 suspects have been cleared for transfer to other countries. A senior administration official has said the Justice Department is considering prosecuting about 30 others in federal courts, and another 30 or so could face trial by military commissions. A final group will be held indefinitely without charge, subject to occasional judicial review, the administration has said.