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Democrats agree on Guantanamo transfers

October 08, 2009|Washington Post

WASHINGTON — 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. A separate conference on the Homeland Security appropriations bill would allow transfer to the U.S. only for prosecution.

All the measures must be voted on by the full House and Senate, and each chamber has bipartisan opposition to closing the Guantanamo facility. The House voted in a nonbinding resolution last week to block the transfer of any detainees to the United States.

Also Wednesday, more than two dozen retired military officers, as well as retired intelligence and law enforcement officials, wrote President Obama and every member of Congress to warn that bringing detainees to the United States "would threaten national security and public safety."

Late last month, another group of retired generals and admirals held a forum on Capitol Hill to argue the opposite.

Of the 223 remaining detainees, about 140 could be transferred to the United States -- at least 40 for trial and as many as 100 for detention. The rest could be repatriated or resettled in other countries.

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