Nestled among “a string of improbable victories President Barack Obama racked up in the lame-duck congressional session is legislation containing the most debilitating setback to date to his plan to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and send many of its detainees to trials in civilian courts in the U.S,” POLITICO reports.
Language contained in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House and Senate on Wednesday bars the use of Pentagon funds to transfer any Guantanamo prisoner to the U.S. for any reason, including a trial. Some supporters of [the] plan Obama announced on his first full day in office to close the prison said the passage of the legislation signals nearly complete capitulation by the president.
For about a year, senior national security officials have struggled with the issue of whether to try alleged Sept. 11 plotters like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a military commission or a civilian court — and, if so, where. The new legislation seeks to short-circuit that process by leaving military commissions as the only trial option. Other new requirements in the legislation could slow or stop transfers from Guantanamo to other countries.
Incoming Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) “said he was insisting on an airtight ban in order to be assured that an Illinois state prison the Obama administration wanted to buy to house Guantanamo prisoners would be used only for ordinary convicts if the feds acquire it.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of Obama’s most loyal allies on Guantanamo and detainee issues, said the restrictions were simply an acknowledgment of the lack of support in Congress for Obama’s approach.
“I think it’s necessary to include the language,” Durbin said. “I supported the president’s position on [the Illinois prison] initially — that issue has been resolved politically, and this bill, the language in it, reflects the political reality.”