- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (AP) - President Barack Obama came under fire Tuesday for including $80 million to close Guantanamo in a massive funding request to fight America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The $83.4 billion request to Congress was submitted on April 9, when lawmakers were on break over the Easter holidays.

Tucked into the 99-page bill were a few paragraphs about Guantanamo _ including a request for funds for foreign countries that accept prisoners. U.S. efforts to have other countries take in detainees have largely been a flop _ stoking fears the men will end up in America.

“The administration needs to tell the American people what it plans to do with these men if they close Guantanamo,” U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday. He pointed out that two years ago the Senate voted 94-3 against sending detainees to the U.S.

McConnell opposes closing Guantanamo.

“Foreign countries have thus far been unwilling to take them in any significant numbers. And even if countries were willing to take them, there’s an increasing probability that some of these murderers would return to the battlefield,” he said.

Military Families United, a military family advocacy organization, predicted the inclusion of money to close Guantanamo in the war-funding request “will significantly delay the passage of this legislation and delay our troops from getting the funding they need and deserve.”

“Funding for our troops cannot be made contingent on funding for an unrelated and politically divisive issue like the closure of Guantanamo Bay,” the group said.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said Republicans are looking at ways to strip the Guantanamo money from the funding bill. There is no move afoot to block the entire funding bill because “this is money for our troops,” Stewart said.

Obama seeks $30 million in Justice Department funding to shut down the Guantanamo detention center, review U.S. detention and interrogation procedures and fund future litigation.

Another $50 million in Defense Department funds sought by Obama would support the relocation of the 240 prisoners at Guantanamo, which Obama has ordered closed by January, and redeploy military and support forces associated with the detention center on the Navy base.

Some of the $50 million would also “provide assistance to foreign nations” as detainees are relocated.

The U.S. wants to resettle dozens of Guantanamo prisoners in foreign lands, but countries have been reluctant to take them because of security concerns.

A senior Obama administration official indicated Tuesday that some of the funding could be used to help foreign nations pay for rehabilitation programs. The official was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.


Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes in Washington contributed to this report.

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