Senate allows more transfers of detainees to U.S. for trial

By Associated press
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

President Obama won a modest victory Tuesday in his effort to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the Senate voted to allow the government to continue to transfer detainees from the facility to the United States to be prosecuted.

The plan passed by a 79 to 19 vote as part of a larger $44.1 billion budget bill for the Homeland Security Department. The measure had already been approved by the House and now goes to Obama for his signature.

In January, Obama ordered the Guantanamo prison closed within a year, but the administration has yet to deliver a plan on how to accomplish that, and the effort has hit several roadblocks. Among the problems is unease among congressional Democrats, who have refused to fund the effort.

The measure adopted Tuesday requires the administration to develop a plan before any further transfers. It also requires 15 days' notice before a transfer can occur and a certification that the prisoner does not represent a security risk.

Compared with last week's vote in the House, where Democratic leaders had to press to defeat a GOP effort to block transfer of any of the Guantanamo detainees to the United States, the Senate's debate over its plan was relatively sedate.

"Prosecuting these individuals in our U.S. courts simply will not work, and there is too much at stake to grant the unprecedented benefit of our legal system's complex procedural safeguards to foreign nationals who were captured outside the United States during a time of war," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

"Guantanamo must be closed because it's become a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and other terrorists," countered Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

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