A group of House Republicans has introduced legislation that would block the transfer of any detainees being held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba facility to the United States without the approval of the destination state's governor and legislature. The action comes as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate panel that the Obama administration would not release or transfer any detainee if the action poses a security threat.
In an appearance before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, Attorney General Holder sought to assure members of Congress and other nations that the decision to transfer or release detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay would be made with security considerations in mind.
"It will not be the intention of this task administration or the intention of this attorney general to place anybody in any part of this world who is a risk to the community or country that is receiving these individuals," said Eric Holder.
President Barack Obama has ordered the closure of the facility at Guantanamo, which still holds 241 detainees, by 2010. The administration is reviewing cases to determine which detainees will be tried in court, and which ones will be transferred or released.
Attorney General Holder says he expects the United States to begin transferring detainees in the next few months, and says Washington continues to try to persuade other countries to accept some of them.
Shortly after Holder's testimony, a group of House Republicans unveiled legislation that would bar the transfer or release of any Guantanamo detainees to the United States without approval from the governor and legislature of the destination state.
Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, was among those who introduced the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act.
"Guantanamo was chosen for a specific reason," said Pete Hoekstra. "It is isolated. It is hard for outside terrorist organizations to get to Guantanamo. It is next to impossible for them to identify Americans that are working at Guantanamo, so they are protected. That all fundamentally changes when you take them off the island, off and away from Guantanamo and plunk them down in the middle of Michigan, in the middle of Kansas, in the middle of Virginia or the middle of New York."
Senate Republicans are expected to introduce their own version of the bill.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky addressed the issue on the Senate floor.
"Americans like the fact that we haven't been attacked at home here since 9/11," said Mitch McConnell. "And they don't want the terrorists at Guantanamo back on the battlefield and certainly not in their backyards."
Some Democrats have also expressed unease over President Obama's decision to close Guantanamo.
The Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee Thursday approved a supplemental funding request for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq without the $80 million that the administration is seeking to close Guantanamo.
The Senate will take up the supplemental request later this month.