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The White House says it's reviewing the Supreme Court ruling rejecting its plans for trying detainees at Guantanamo. The decision came this morning just as President Bush was beginning two days of events with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The two leaders discussed issues ranging Iran and Iraq to North Korea. But the Supreme Court's ruling overshadowed the meetings.
NPR's Don Gonyea reports from the White House.
DON GONYEA reporting:
Prime Minister Koizumi has been among President Bush's most important allies over the past five years and the warmth between the two men was on display during an East Room news conference.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: The Prime Minister and I've got a very friendly relationship.
GONYEA: Koizumi, through an interpreter, echoed those sentiments.
Prime Minister JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI (Japan): (Through translator): And I believe this is not just limited to close relations between us and personally, but I believe this close relationship is necessary in the future between Japan and the United States as well.
GONYEA: And there were plenty of Elvis Presley jokes between the two leaders. Koizumi famously is a huge fan of the late singer. But when questioning from reporters got underway, things turned immediately to the one topic of the day, the Supreme Court ruling on Guantanamo, which said the president does not have the authority to order military trials for detainees being held at the prison camp. Mr. Bush was asked if Guantanamo Bay will soon be closed. He said he hadn't had time to digest the ruling, but he added this.
President BUSH: The American people need to know that this ruling, as I understand it, won't cause killers to be put out on the street. In other words, there's not - as I, a drive-by briefing on the way here, I was told that this was not going to be the case. At any rate, we will seriously look at the findings, obviously.
GONYEA: The president and Koizumi took just four questions total at their joint news conference, two from American reporters and two from the Japanese Press Corps. Both U.S. reporters asked about the Guantanamo ruling, including this follow up from Reuters correspondent Matt Spetalnick.
Mr. MATT SPETALNICK (Reuters): Can you comment on what looks like a judicial repudiation of your administration's policy on the treatment of terrorists suspects post-9/11?
President BUSH: Matt, I can't, I wish I could comment. I would obviously, you know, I'm a person you know who generally comments on things. I haven't been briefed enough to make a comment on it, except for the following things. I'm sorry you had to waste your question, but we will conform to the Supreme Court. We will analyze the decision. To the extent that the Congress is given any latitude to develop a way forward using military tribunals, we will work with them.
GONYEA: Later in the day, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow argued that the ruling does not say that the president has over reached in terms of his authority to deal with Guantanamo detainees.
Mr. TONY SNOW (White House Press Secretary): What the Supreme Court has not said is you can't try them. It hasn't said you can't bring them to justice. I think now it's a question of how properly to do that. So no, it doesn't tie his hands, it doesn't serve as a rebuke, but it says -
GONYEA: Snow said the court simply wants the White House to work with Congress and revise U.S. laws governing the trials of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and within the hour, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he would offer legislation to do just that.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House.
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