Published November 30, 2012
The Senate has passed a measure that prevents terrorist detainees from being transferred to facilities on U.S. soil, a day after it was revealed a prominent Democrat had commissioned a federal report to identify U.S. locations that may be suitable for housing Guantanamo prisoners.
The measure, which was introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., was approved by a vote of 54 to 41 late Thursday.
Ayotte argued that the facilities at Guantanamo Bay are "singularly equipped" to handle terrorist prisoners, calling the prison "top-rate."
“The administration may want to close Guantanamo, but the American people do not want foreign terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed brought to the United States,” Ayotte said.
The vote comes the day after Fox News revealed exclusively that longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had commissioned the report and concluded the option to house Guantanamo prisoners in the U.S. is viable, despite congressional opposition to such a plan when the Obama administration proposed it.
"This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security,” Feinstein said. “The GAO report makes clear that numerous prisons exist inside the United States -- operated by both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice—capable of holding the 166 detainees who remain at Guantanamo in an environment that meets the security requirements.”
In response to Ayotte, Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the United States not only can but has handled terrorist suspects, with 180 now languishing in super maximum prisons. She complained that the measure would erase the president's flexibility.
"I don't think the right thing to do is to tie anyone's hands," she said.
Democratic Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, who had pushed for several of the provisions on terror suspects in last year's defense bill, said Ayotte's measure was "unwise in terms of our national security." He also warned that the provision was certain to draw a presidential veto.
In fact, the administration, in threatening to veto the bill, strongly objected to a provision restricting the president's authority to transfer terror suspects from Guantanamo to foreign countries. The provision is in current law.
The White House said the provisions were "misguided when they were enacted and should not be renewed."
Current law denies suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens seized within the nation's borders, the right to trial and subjects them to the possibility they would be held indefinitely. It reaffirms the post-Sept. 11 authorization for the use of military force that allows indefinite detention of enemy combatants.
Several Democrats vulnerable in the 2014 elections voted with Republicans on Ayotte's measure.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.