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Democrats Vote to Bring Gitmo Detainees to U.S.

10:40 AM, Oct 8, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Following up on earlier reports, it turns out that the Democrats have in fact decided to allow the transfer of Gitmo detainees to the U.S. to face trial. The Washington Post reports:

Key Democratic lawmakers agreed Wednesday to allow detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be transferred to the United States for trial, removing one of several hurdles the administration must clear to meet its January deadline for closing the military prison.

Left unresolved was whether the administration could also hold detainees indefinitely in this country without charging them.

House and Senate Democrats who are negotiating the defense authorization bill included language that would prohibit only the "release" of detainees in the United States, leaving other options on the table. A separate conference on the homeland security appropriations bill included more restrictive language, allowing transfer to this country only for prosecution.

The New York Times adds:

It was not clear from summaries circulating Wednesday whether the legislation would allow detainees to serve prison sentences in the United States. In addition, it was not clear whether the compromise would permit detainees to be brought to the United States for indefinite detention. An undetermined number of detainees are deemed too dangerous to release but cannot be put on trial because there is insufficient evidence against them.

This provision, according to the Times, was attached to the $42.8 billion spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. That bill still has to be voted on, but by burying this provision in the bill the Democrats have done their best to make sure this unnecessary provision gets passed along with necessary funding.

What is truly remarkable about this is that it just last week the House voted 258-163 in favor of a "nonbinding resolution" that made it clear that Congress, and the American people, don't want Gitmo detainees transferred to the U.S. for any reason. Eighty-eight Democrats voted in favor of that resolution. And, in May, the Senate voted 90-6 to forbid the transfer of Gitmo detainees to the U.S.

Disregarding the will of the American people and Congress, Democrats in the House and Senate have decided to allow the Gitmo transfers anyway -- raising all sorts of questions. Will Gitmo detainees convicted in federal courts be jailed in maximum security prisons? Or, does the Obama administration have some other facility in mind?

What about Gitmo detainees who are acquitted in a federal court? According to news accounts of this latest provision, Gitmo detainees cannot be outright released into the U.S. But, what about detainees who stand trial and then are acquitted for whatever reason? It was not too long ago that Senator Harry Reid worried about just such a scenario -- and argued that it precluded Gitmo detainees from being transferred to the U.S. What has changed, other than the fact that the Obama administration's problems in closing the facility have become increasingly embarrassing?