Today, Senate Democrats announced that the Senate will strip $80 million in funding for closing Guantanamo until the Obama administration devises a specific plan for transferring detainees. The move comes as conservatives are pushing the claim that Guantanamo “terrorists” could escape into Americans’ backyard if the facility is closed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) declared in a press conference today, “We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.” In several tense back and forths with reporters, Reid said he opposes imprisoning detainees on U.S. soil, saying flatly, “We don’t want them around the United States”:
REID: I’m saying that the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans, do not want terrorists to be released in the United States. That’s very clear.
QUESTION: No one’s talking about releasing them. We’re talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States.
REID: Can’t put them in prison unless you release them.
QUESTION: Sir, are you going to clarify that a little bit? …
REID: I can’t make it any more clear than the statement I have given to you. We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.
Later, Reid repeated that he would not support Guantanamo detainees being transferred to U.S prisons:
QUESTION: But Senator, Senator, it’s not that you’re not being clear when you say you don’t want them released. But could you say — would you be all right with them being transferred to an American prison?
REID: Not in the United States.
A reporter then asked, “[I]f a detainee is adjudicated not to be a terrorist, could that detainee then enter the United States?” Reid refused to answer directly, saying, “Why don’t we wait for a plan from the president? All we’re doing now is nitpicking on language that I have given you. I’ve been as clear as I can.” After being peppered by questions, Reid joked, “I think I’ve had about enough of this.”
Reid said he wants Guantanamo closed, but his claim that he would not support transferring detainees to the U.S. clashes with this goal. Currently, dozens of convicted terrorists are being held securely in federal prisons, and the U.S. has already prosecuted 145 terrorism cases in federal court. Reid’s position aligns him with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who also opposes “the transfer of the detainees to US soil.”
If not American prisons, where will detainees be sent after Guantanamo is closed?
After the press conference today, Reid’s office released the following statement:
“President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, Secretary Colin Powell, President Obama and I all agree – Guantanamo must be closed. President Obama’s approach is a responsible one. [...]
“The amendment Chairman Inouye has offered today recognizes that it would be premature for Congress to act before the Administration proposes its plan. I support his amendment. On two important points, however, we do not need to wait for any instruction – and there should be no misunderstanding. Let me be clear: Democrats will not move to close Guantanamo without a responsible plan in place to ensure Americans’ safety. And we will never allow a terrorist to be released into the United States.
“This amendment is as clear as day. It explicitly bars using the funds in this bill to ‘transfer, release or incarcerate’ any of the Guantanamo detainees in the United States. When the Administration closes Guantanamo, we will ensure it does so the right way.”