Government report: Guantanamo detainees could be safely absorbed by US prisons

[JURIST] US Senator Dianne Feinstein [official website] released a report [text, PDF] by the Government Accountability Office [official website] on Wednesday which asserts that US prisons could safely absorb the 166 detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay military prison in the event the facility is closed and the detainees are brought to the US. The report identifies six Department of Defense (DOD) facilities and 98 Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites] facilities that could hold the detainees and points out that there are already 373 prisoners convicted of terrorism in facilities throughout the US. While the DOD asserts that it has the legal authority under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) [text] to maintain custody of the detainees, the DOJ does not consider itself to have such authority and would require additional statutory authority in order to do so. However, the DOJ maintains that it has the "correctional expertise to safely and securely house detainees with a history or nexus to terrorism."

Feinstein, who is chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, commissioned the report in 2008 and welcomed [AP report] its findings, stating that it "demonstrates that if the political will exists we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security." Last month, the ACLU called on [JURIST report] President Barack Obama to close the military prison during his second term. During his 2008 campaign for the presidency, Obama pledged to close the prison and during his second day in office he issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] directing the prison to be closed. However, in the face of congressional opposition [JURIST report] the Obama administration missed its self-imposed deadline to close Guantanamo military prison, and, following the 2010 mid-term congressional election, congress effectively halted [JURIST backgrounder] plans to close the facility. According to Forum contributor Jonathan Hafetz, Obama bears responsibility [JURIST op-ed] for the political missteps that prevented Guantanamo from closing and criticizes the president for embracing the "larger detention system that Guantanamo embodies." Conversely, Forum contributor David Frakt agrees that the Obama administration is partially responsible, but believes congress is largely to blame [JURIST op-ed] for passing a "series of increasingly stringent spending restrictions which have made it virtually impossible to transfer most detainees out of Guantanamo."

 

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