Republicans push for tougher Guantanamo limits

AP News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2011 6:31 PM
Republicans push for tougher Guantanamo limits

House Republicans on Tuesday demanded tougher restrictions for terror suspects at Guantanamo even after President Barack Obama reversed course and ordered the resumption of military trials for detainees.

Annoyed that Obama acted by executive authority _ and without congressional input, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and six other GOP lawmakers said Tuesday they would introduce legislation to limit legal representation for detainees and permanently block money to build or renovate a facility in the United States to house suspects now held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The bill also would give the defense secretary rather than the attorney general the final say on keeping a detainee in military custody and restrict the transfer of a detainee to other countries unless the defense secretary certifies a host country meets certain standards.

Bowing to political pressure, Obama on Monday called for the resumption of trials after a two-year stoppage, but that wasn't sufficient for some Republicans.

"The president took unilateral action without consulting Congress on how to deal with the remaining terrorists at Gitmo. I find this totally unacceptable," said Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., who called the prison a "very nice facility" that should remain operational.

Obama had promised to close the prison upon taking office, but fierce congressional opposition to moving detainees to the United States has stopped him.

McKeon said the legislation could be part of the annual defense authorization bill that his committee produces.

"While our country cannot detain our way out of the threats we face, law-of-war detention is a critical tool necessary to neutralize terrorists and obtain valuable intelligence," McKeon said at a news conference.

He said he had spoken with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., about comparable legislation in the Senate. However, McKeon said he had limited discussions with the Pentagon, the Obama administration and House Democrats about the bill.

The first Guantanamo trial likely to proceed under Obama's new order would involve Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Al-Nashiri, a Saudi of Yemeni descent, has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2006.

Defense officials have said that of the around-170 detainees at Guantanamo, about 80 are expected to face trial by military commission.