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Michigan town lobbies for Gitmo transfers
Question of the Day
“The federal government should not be negotiating this with a mayor or community leaders,” he said. “We need to make sure we have access to information on these prisoners. Public safety is the No. 1 responsibility of legislators.”
Michelle Begnoche, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Menominee, said the lawmaker supports the move as long as there is state and local support.
She said Standish remains under consideration as one relocation point for the detainees and her office has been in contact with the White House on the issue.
“It’s my understanding that no decisions have been made” on the transfer, she said.
Mr. Stupak, in a statement issued in August, said, “Any proposal must have a comprehensive security analysis and economic and job creation implications. I will work with local and state officials to gauge their level of support before a final decision is made.”
The U.S. Senate has twice voted overwhelmingly against transferring detainees to the United States. Every aspect of bringing Guantanamo detainees onto U.S. soil continues to be politically charged. The Obama administration’s plan to try some detainees in federal courts instead of military tribunals will be challenged in the Senate as soon as Thursday.
The Republican measure would prohibit civilian trials for detainees accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. About five of the approximately 220 remaining detainees are suspected in those attacks, including professed plot mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The administration reportedly is considering trying them in federal courts in New York, Virginia and the District.
Senate Republicans argue that military commissions or tribunals are best equipped to handle evidence and top-secret intelligence in the cases that could compromise national security if revealed in open court.
“These guys are not common criminals, they are war criminals,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and sponsor of the legislation that has been offered as an amendment to the Justice Department appropriations bill for 2010.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said the amendment is misguided and would tie the hands of the attorney general in dealing with terrorism suspects. He noted in a Senate floor speech on Wednesday that more than 350 terrorists have been convicted in U.S. courts and 355 are serving time in U.S. prisons.
“We know we can successfully prosecute them under American law,” he said. “Why would the Republicans want to shield them from prosecution under American law?”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu, a former Green Beret and author of a book on Guantanamo who has been a featured speaker at the recent Michigan town-hall meetings, said he thinks the Obama administration - which he said is smarting from failures on key issues in the last year - may try to push through the prisoner transfer.
He thinks the president’s motives may be to make the move “strictly for image reasons,” as the military-run facility in Cuba has been condemned globally by human rights activists who argue that incarcerating people indefinitely without due process is wrong.
“These aren’t innocent people,” said Col. Cucullu, who has visited Guantanamo five times and calls it “an excellent facility” where prisoners have full access to the international community, including the Red Cross.
“If we bring these guys to the U.S., we are asking for it,” he said. “I don’t think that is fair for the people of the U.S., Michigan or Standish.”
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