Feinstein: How Bout' Bringing GITMO Detainees to the United States?

Posted: Nov 29, 2012 7:30 AM

It's happening again. One of the Senate's leading Democrats, Senator Diane Feinstein, has been pushing to bring GITMO detainees into the United States and has hired the Government Accountability Office to look into how it can happen. This is a proposal that failed during the first Obama term due to public outrage and a logistical nightmare, yet it's coming up again as an option.

The Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence committee commissioned a federal report to identify prison facilities in the U.S. that are suitable for housing Guantanamo detainees, concluding the option is viable -- despite congressional opposition to such a plan when the Obama administration proposed it.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's renewed interest in the proposal first came to light Wednesday after Fox News turned up an internal Government Accountability Office document that refers to “Source of Work: Ms. Dianne Feinstein, Chair, Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Senate” and lists the “Gist of Work” as an investigation into whether domestic facilities could house the approximately 170 detainees remaining at the controversial facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Two hours after Fox News' inquiry about the report, Feinstein's office posted the report online and released a statement confirming that the California senator thinks the Obama administration's controversial plan to relocate detainees to the United States is a viable option.

“This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security,” Feinstein said. “The GAO report makes clear that numerous prisons exist inside the United States -- operated by both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice—capable of holding the 166 detainees who remain at Guantanamo in an environment that meets the security requirements.”


I assume Ms. Feinstein would be perfectly happy to welcome GITMO detainees to her district. One of President Obama's first moves after being inaugurated in January 2009 was signing an executive order requiring the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison within one year. Congress countered the order by blocking funding for the transfer of prisoners and therefore, the prison is still open today. Not to mention, constituents didn't want GITMO detainees transferred into their backyards.

Although the transfer of GITMO detainees has been described by Feinstein as "viable"  based on the findings in the report, the report doesn''t address key issues required to make the transfers a reality.

Accordingly, this report describes (1) current Guantánamo Bay detention facilities and infrastructure; (2) Department of Defense (DOD) corrections facilities in the United States, and factors to be considered if they were used to hold Guantánamo Bay detainees; and (3) Department of Justice (DOJ) corrections facilities in the United States that hold individuals charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, and factors to be considered if they were used to hold Guantánamo Bay detainees. We are also issuing a classified version of this report in November 2012. That version includes an additional appendix, which provides a discussion of Guantánamo Bay facilities used for classified operations that would need to be considered if the detainees were transferred to facilities in the United States.

The scope of our work was to provide a descriptive review of the detention facilities and infrastructure at Guantánamo Bay as well as existing corrections facilities in the United States. Hence, our review did not include an evaluation of whether specific U.S. facilities would be suitable for holding Guantánamo Bay detainees, nor did we address legal factors that are still being adjudicated such as detainee habeas corpus rights, and right to counsel. In addition we are not making recommendations in this report.

Back in October, the Department of Justice announced plans to purchase an Illinois prison once considered a new home for GITMO prisoners.

The Justice Department said Tuesday that it is buying a prison in Illinois from the state for $165 million, defying Republican lawmakers who have sought to block the purchase of the facility, earlier slated to be the new home of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a letter to lawmakers, reiterated that the prison wouldn't be used to house Guantanamo detainees, noting the law prohibits transferring inmates from the prison in Cuba to the U.S. He said the facility would provide badly needed high-security prison space, alleviating overcrowding. The maximum-security prison was built in 2001 and was designed for 1,600 inmates but has remained mostly unused.

House Republicans offered two criticisms of purchasing the Thomson, Ill., prison, saying it could be a way of reviving the plan to close Guantanamo and could have political motivations. Illinois is President Barack Obama's home state and Thomson is near the border with Iowa, a contested state in the November elections.

Attorney General Eric Holder has been a strong advocate for the closure of GITMO and for holding terrorist trials in civilian court rather than in military tribunals.