House Republicans Attempt to Block Transfer of Gitmo Detainees


Published November 18, 2009


Key House Republicans are trying to block suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay prison from coming to the U.S. for trial and incarceration a week after the Obama administration announced it would prosecute the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York.

Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, on Wednesday introduced a "discharge petition," that would force the House to consider a bill that would prevent President Obama from closing the Cuba facility and require detainees to be tried in a military tribunal.

On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-conspirators would be transferred to New York for a federal trial, provoking intense criticism from Republicans.

"This is one of the most-dangerous decisions any president has made," said New York Rep. Pete King, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

King, who represents a district on Long Island outside New York City, said he lost 150 friends in the Sept. 11 attack.

"It will be like reopening old wounds," King added.

The discharge petition currently has the signatures of 170 House members, all of them Republicans. At least 218 signatures are necessary to force the House to consider Hoekstra's legislation. But it's a long shot as discharge petitions are rarely successful.

One of Obama's first acts in office was the announcement that he would shutter Guantanamo Bay's prison and transfer the detainees elsewhere. Hoekstra accused Obama of "holding out a pot of gold" to American communities in an effort to lure them into housing prisoners currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. Hoekstra lamented how the White House has shopped around the opportunity to lock up detainees to various communities around the United States.

"One day they're supposed to go to Colorado. Then one day, Standish, Michigan. Then South Carolina. Then Illinois," Hoekstra said, reading off a laundry list of various locales reported to be under consideration to take the prisoners.

Holder on Wednesday defended the decision to try the suspects in federal court while testifying before a Senate panel. Holder told senators that New York is the place "most likely to obtain justice for the American people."

"I'm not scared of what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has to say at trial and no one else needs to be afraid either," Holder said.

Some lawmakers like King worried about bringing the suspected terrorists to the U.S. could create legal opportunities for the detainees.

"The minute they set foot on U.S. soil, they get constitutional rights," King said. The New York Republican also pointed out that the government was trying other suspects at Gitmo and wondered why all suspects weren't being tried there.