Pentagon set to release list of US sites where Guantanamo prisoners could be moved
The Pentagon is expected to unveil a long-awaited plan this week outlining how it would close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, despite fierce resistance in Congress to President Barack Obama’s push to shutter the facility, officials say.
The plan would have four sections, one detailing potential U.S. alternatives for detainees, including the Centennial Correctional Facility in Colorado, one of the more promising locations, one U.S. official said.
A small Defense Department team has surveyed facilities including the Consolidated Naval Brig in South Carolina and the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado, the Pentagon says.
It also examined two facilities at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and Midwest Joint Regional Corrections Facility.
Obama, who campaigned for office on a pledge to close the facility, views it as a damaging symbol of detainee abuse and detention without charge inherited from Republican President George W. Bush.
The House of Representatives last week overwhelmingly passed a defense bill that included measures that would bar Obama from closing Guantanamo before he leaves office in 2017. The Senate is expected to pass it as soon as Tuesday.
Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s top military committee, has publicly voiced his support for closing the facility, but sharply criticizes the failure to deliver a plan sooner.
Republican lawmakers are furious at suggestions that Obama might use an executive order to close the prison and move detainees to U.S. soil. The Republican Party has been working to make the issue part of the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Apparently they are going to try and rule through executive order, ignoring laws passed to block any such transfers of these terrorists,” Kansas Senator Pat Roberts told a Republican Party media call.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis declined to specify when the plan would get to Congress, other than it would be “very soon.”
U.S. officials, requesting anonymity, said it was expected this week.
There are still 112 detainees at Guantanamo, of whom 53 are deemed eligible for transfer.
The plan would transfer eligible detainees to foreign countries; prosecute those who can be prosecuted, and move to U.S. soil suspects who cannot be prosecuted but are deemed too dangerous to release, an option now barred by law.
Davis told a Pentagon briefing the plan would address the issue of legislation change.
Rights activists object to moving detainees to U.S. soil without formal charges being brought against them.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler)