Two leading Democratic lawmakers are calling on the Obama administration to stop force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Dick Durbin of Illinois wrote in letter Wednesday that daily mass feedings should be stopped and that the same safeguards need to be applied as in U.S. prisons when feeding is necessary to keep a detainee from dying.
Just over 100 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo have been on a hunger strike for four months to protest their indefinite detention. Forty-four of them are strapped down each day and force-fed liquid nutrients through a nasal tube.
Obama's hardest sell in his renewed push to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, seems to be members of his own party — moderate Senate Democrats facing tough re-election bids next year in the strongly Republican South.
Obama has stepped up the pressure to shutter the naval facility, driven in part by his revised counterterrorism strategy and the 4-month-old stain of the government force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strikes to prevent them from starving to death. Civil liberties groups and liberals have slammed Obama for failing to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to close the installation and find another home for the 166 terror suspects being held there indefinitely.
Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have repeatedly resisted the president's attempts to close the facility, arguing that the prisoners are too dangerous to be moved to U.S. soil, that Guantanamo is a perfectly adequate prison and that the administration has failed to offer a viable alternative.
White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco lobbied House members in advance of several votes last month to no avail. The House delivered strong votes to keep Guantanamo open and to prevent Obama from transferring detainees to Yemen. Separately, the president's recent appointment of a special envoy on Guantanamo, Cliff Sloan, has met with a collective shrug on Capitol Hill.
In the coming weeks, the Senate will again vote on the future of Guantanamo. All signs point to a bipartisan statement to keep the facility open despite a recent vow to end detention at the installation by two national security leaders — Sens. Feinstein and John McCain, R-Ariz.
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