US Congress votes to allow Guantanamo transfers to US

WASHINGTON- The US Congress on Tuesday gave President Barack Obama the green light to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to US soil for trial, in a boost to his efforts to close the notorious facility.
The legislation, part of a 42.7-billion-dollar bill to fund the US Department of Homeland Security in 2010, cleared the Senate 79-19 after sailing through the House of Representatives last week.

US Congress votes to allow Guantanamo transfers to US
Obama vowed on his second day in office to shutter the facility, a magnet for global criticism of US tactics in the "war on terrorism," by January 22, though White House aides say they face an uphill fight to keep that promise.
Of the roughly 220 people still held at the controversial prison camp, which then-president George W. Bush opened in January 2002, about 80 are waiting to be released and a further 60 are expected to be prosecuted.
The legislation forbids the release of detainees at the US naval base in Cuba onto US soil -- including overseas territories like Guam or Puerto Rico -- and requires a detailed assessment of the possible security risk 45 days before they can be brought to trial in the United States.
The assessment would have to include details of the dangers involved, steps to diminish the possible threat, the legal rationale for the transfer, and assurances to the governor of the receiving state that the individual poses little or no security risk.
The legislation also says the detainees cannot be sent to another country unless the president gives Congress the name of the detainee, the destination, a risk assessment, and the terms of a transfer.
The measure would also allow the Pentagon to block the release of photographs showing abuse of suspected terrorists in US custody, in line with Obama's policy of opposing efforts to make such pictures public.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been fighting in court to win the release of some of the photographs, but the legislation is seen as short-circuiting the group's legal challenges.
The bill did not address whether the Obama administration can hold prisoners indefinitely without charge in the United States and left unclear what the fate would be of those who may be tried and acquitted.
The government team tasked with assessing the detainee cases has struggled to persuade other countries to take some of the captives, with only a trickle of prisoners -- some 27 -- transferred since Obama's inauguration in January.
Prosecution, even by a special system of military commissions created for that purpose by the US Congress, has been dogged by problems, including charges of evidence tainted by abuse, and criticized for allowing hearsay evidence.
Obama's Republican foes have opposed bringing detainees to US soil for trial or detention -- even if the detainees were contained alongside serial murderers and rapists in high security federal prisons.
US prisons already house a number of inmates convicted on terrorism charges, such as Al-Qaeda plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in the attacks of September 11, 2001, who is serving a life sentence in Colorado.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who says he favors closing the facility, has proposed legislation blocking trials on US soil for five Guantanamo detainees suspected of connections to the September 11th attacks.

Wednesday, October 21st 2009

New comment:

Opinion | Comment