Senate Republicans said Thursday a tougher, more comprehensive military detention policy for terror suspects is necessary to fill the void created by two years of what they call the Obama administration's inconsistent approach.
Just days after President Barack Obama's decision to resume military trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, five GOP lawmakers and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., proposed legislation that would keep open the military prison by barring money for any alternative, impose restrictions on transferring detainees to foreign countries and push for military commissions, not civilian courts, to decide the fate of detainees.
Upon taking office, Obama said he wanted to close the Guantanamo prison within a year, but fierce congressional opposition has made it impossible. The administration reiterated its desire to close the installation on Monday when it spelled out Obama's executive order on military trials.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee and a critical player on the issue, told a news conference that shuttering Guantanamo isn't feasible.
"I think in a perfect world I would like to see it closed because it is a symbol, particularly in the Middle East, of the improper treatment of prisoners. And the administration has had two years and ... it has been incoherent, incomprehensible and impossible to translate into any specific action that would cause the closure of Guantanamo Bay," McCain said. "Basically, the administration has thrown up its hands by the announcement that it just has made, so we are going to live and operate within in an environment that, in the short term, it won't be closed."
McCain said the legislation, which possibly could be part of the annual defense bill, would "resolve these longstanding issues which were not addressed in the president's executive order." He said he would work with House Republicans, who have proposed similar legislation.
Obama, in his statement on Monday, backed the use of civilian courts to try terror suspects. "I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system _ including (federal) courts _ to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened," he said.
The lawmakers rejected that idea, especially for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the professed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, who had been slotted for trial in New York before Obama bowed to political resistance and blocked the Justice Department's plans.
"Congress will never pay for a civilian trial," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Joining McCain, Lieberman and Graham were Republican Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.