Senate Opens Door to Gitmo Shutdown

Friday, 23 May 2014 11:27 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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If President Barack Obama presents a plan to "safely and securely" transport suspected terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States, the Senate is ready t allow the detention center's closure, The Washington Times reports.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan tells the newspaper that this year's annual defense policy bill has a provision to "authorize the Secretary of Defense to move Guantanamo detainees to the United States once the president provides Congress with a plan and subject to stringent security measures and legal protection."

Closing the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba — known as Gitmo — has been a political hot potato. In 2008, then Sen. Barack Obama campaigned on closing it, calling it a "priority of an Obama administration. He has been criticized by the left for failing to make it happen. Citing security concerns, Republicans have rebuffed efforts to transfer the prisoners to U.S. soil or to other countries.

Though U.S. policy has loosened over recent years — transfers of Gitmo prisoners to other countries are now permitted in cases where a "detailed security plan" has been created — very few prisoners have been transferred out, according to the Times. Transferring prisoners to the United States is still prohibited.

A report from the Justice Department to Congress earlier this month states that transferring Gitmo prisoners to the United States "could occur without jeopardizing national security and that detainees held on suspicion of terrorism would not enjoy the same legal rights as other immigrants, including the ability to get asylum."

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has characterized the Justice Department's conclusions as "predictable" and "simply giving cover to President Obama so that he can continue what he is already actively working towards, which is bringing terrorists onto U.S. soil."

A lawyer for a Gitmo detainee told the Russian news service RT that conditions at the prison have improved somewhat over the years, but that force-feeding and "the regime of genital searches" mandated if prisoners want to go from base-to-base continues.

"That is the main complaint," lawyer David H. Remes told RT. "It really bars communication with lawyers and families, because the men are unwilling to leave their camps in order to speak or meet with them. Beyond that it's the psychological condition of being held in indefinite detention. The men are desperate. Now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, the men are pleading to get home to their families. It has been 12 years."

The Associated Press continued to this report.

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