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Pelosi Shrugs off Alcatraz as Possible Terror Detention Facility

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday shrugged off Republican suggestions that the federal government reopen Alcatraz prison in her San Francisco district to house detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

President Obama this week signed an executive order calling for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo within the year. Republican Rep. Bill Young then suggested to White House counsel Greg Craig that the prisoners who could not be released back to their home countries or sent to a third country be put up in "the Rock," the famous military installation and prison that closed down in 1963 and is now part of the National Park Service.

Asked whether that was a serious proposal, Pelosi said, "It is -- no."

"Perhaps he's not visited Alcatraz," Pelosi said of Young while displaying little sense of humor. "Alcatraz is a tourist attraction. It's a prison that is now sort of like a -- it's a national park."

That explanation didn't stop House Minority Leader John Boehner from repeating the suggestion on Sunday, making that point that closing down Guantanamo by year's end may not be the best plan considering the recidivism rate of terrorist detainees is about 12 percent. 

"If liberals believe they ought to go, maybe we ought to open Alcatraz," Boehner, R-Ohio, told NBC "Meet the Press." Being reminded that Alcatraz is a national park, Boehner responded, "It's very secure."

The argument is just the latest iteration in an ongoing dispute over what to do with the remaining 245 enemy combatants who were to be tried in military commissions until a stay was ordered by the president last week in one of his first official acts.

Boehner said the promise to close Guantanamo by year's end is impractical. 

"Unilaterally saying it without knowing how were going to deal with them…keeps a campaign promise, but may be irresponsible," he said.

But Pelosi called the plan to use the next year to review the case of each detainee is "brilliant." 

"What the president put forth was very wise. He said he's going to close Guantanamo, take the time to do it. You can't just go down there today and say, 'Everybody out,' and lock the door. They're going to review the cases, narrow it down and then go from there. ... It's brilliant," she said on ABC's "This Week."

Vice President Biden, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," said the prison must be closed because the symbolism of Guantanamo around the world has resulted in the growth of terrorist organizations, not their reduction. 

"There's no question it has to be closed. And we don't think it's inconsistent to deal with our national security and our Constitution. ... That's why we have the White House counsel -- Mr. Craig is now going through this meticulously, deciding what we're going to do with each and every prisoner," he said.

Biden added that if the detainees went through the civilian court system and were somehow released, they still would not be sent out into the United States because all but one is an American citizen

"If they are not a U.S. citizen or if they are not here legally, then, even if they were released by a federal judge, they would not be able to stay here in the United States. They would be sent back to their country of origin. They would not stay here," Biden said. 

"They have no legal status to stay here, I don't anticipate that happening. What I anticipate happening is that those people who are in a situation where it is either the evidence is in question or it's going to be hard to make a case, we will most likely be rendering them back to their countries of origin or another country," he continued, adding that some countries have already agreed to establish prison facilities for the detainees.