US House Bars Moving Guantanamo Detainees to US Soil

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

US House Bars Moving Guantanamo Detainees to US Soil

by
Jeremy Pelofsky

In this photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, a Guantanamo detainee runs inside an exercise area at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base April 27, 2010. (Credit: Reuters/Michelle Shephard/Pool)

WASHINGTON - The
House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation to prohibit
moving terrorism suspects from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay to
U.S. soil, a blow to President Barack Obama's efforts to prosecute them
in criminal courts.

The proposed legislation
prevents moving such prisoners to the United States under any
circumstances by prohibiting the administration from spending any money
to do so.

In the past, the
government was allowed to bring detainees, including the self-professed
mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to the
United States to face trial.

The
provision was tucked in must-pass legislation that would fund the U.S.
government's operations through the end of the 2011 fiscal year,
September 30, 2011. That legislation now goes to the Senate for
approval.

The Obama administration
condemned the tighter restriction on moving the detainees and argued
that Congress should not direct how the administration prosecutes such
cases.

"We strongly oppose this
provision. Congress should not limit the tools available to the
executive branch in bringing terrorists to justice and advancing our
national security interests," said Justice Department spokesman Matthew
Miller.

The inclusion of the
provision in the bill was unusual because Democrats still control the
House through the end of the year and previously they had approved
allowing detainees to be brought into the country for prosecution.

The
spending ban makes it impossible for President Barack Obama to follow
through on his campaign pledge to close the prison at least through
September, when the spending bill expires.

THREE DOZEN DETAINEES TO BE PROSECUTED

There
are still 174 detainees at Guantanamo prison and about three dozen were
set for prosecution in either U.S. criminal courts or military
commissions. Republicans have demanded that the trials be held at
Guantanamo.

The first detainee
held at Guantanamo was brought to the United States last year and
prosecuted in federal court in New York. He was acquitted on all but one
of the 285 charges against him in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies
in Africa.

That verdict involving
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani drew stinging criticism from Republicans over the
sole guilty verdict, which carries a sentence of 20 years to life in
prison. They said terrorism suspects should face special military
commissions.

Obama administration
officials countered that scores of terrorism suspects have been
prosecuted in criminal courts and they should have both venues as
options in the future, including detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

Republicans
and some of Obama's fellow Democrats blasted plans by Attorney General
Eric Holder to prosecute Mohammed and four of his accused
co-conspirators for the September 11 attacks in New York. They expressed
concerns about security and whether the suspects were entitled to full
U.S. legal rights.

The White House
then shelved that plan and is now reconsidering how to move forward
with those trials. Holder has defended his plan.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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