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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Defense Bill Passes House, Includes Ban Against Transferring Gitmo Detainees

The Hill:

The bill does include a ban on the transfer of military detainees from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — a blow to the Obama administration, which has yet to make good on a promise to shutter the facility.

Senate Democrats and Republicans passed the bill by unanimous consent after negotiating late into the night Tuesday. If the measure had failed, it would have been the first time in 48 years Congress did not pass a defense authorization.

The defense bill was passed by unanimous consent.

This part of the defense bill also explains the news reports today that Barack Obama's administration is preparing an executive order formalizing indefinite detention without trial for some detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The administration has long signaled that the use of prolonged detention, preferably at a facility in the United States, was one element of its plan to close Guantanamo. An interagency task force found that 48 of the 174 detainees remaining at the facility would have to be held in what the administration calls prolonged detention.

"We have a plan to close Guantanamo, and this detainee review process is one element," said an administration official who discussed the order on the condition of anonymity because it has yet to reach the president.

However, almost every part of the administration's plan to close Guantanamo is on hold, and it could be crippled this week if Congress bans the transfer of detainees to the United States for trial and sets up steep hurdles to the repatriation or resettlement in third countries of other detainees.

Officials worked intensively on the executive order over the past several weeks, but a senior White House official said it had been in the works for more than a year. If Congress blocks the administration's ability to put detainees on trial or transfer them out of Guantanamo, the official said, the executive order could still be implemented.

Instead of simply allowing military tribunals, which have been authorized by Congress already, to try detainees being held at Gitmo after a public outcry about transfering them to U.S. soil, and the spectacular failure of one high profile terrorist, Ahmed Ghailani, being tried in civilian court and being found guilty of only one of 285 charges due to civilian court rules, Obama has simply chosen to do nothing but let them sit in Gitmo.

Needless to say, this is not going over very well with Obama's base.