October 15, 2009
House Votes to Allow U.S. Trial of Guantanamo Detainees
The House of Representatives voted today to allow detainees at Guantanamo Bay to be tried in the United States.
The bill, H.R. 2892, the Department of Homeland Security appropriation bill, Section 552, requires the Department to conduct a threat assessment for each detainee proposed to be transferred to the United States for trial. It also requires the Department to place Guantanamo detainees on the "no fly" list and prohibits the Department from using funds under the bill to grant an "immigration benefit" to Guantanamo detainees, including a visa or admission to the U.S.
If approved by the Senate, the bill will give the Obama administration a congressional endorsement for bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States for criminal trial in Article III courts or for military commissions within the United States. The bill thus facilitates the administration's attempts to close Guantanamo and deal with the remaining detainees.
But a good number of the remaining detainees still will give the administration a headache--particularly those who are considered dangerous, but who can't be tried (because evidence against them is weak or inadmissible). For these detainee, the administration has proposed a form of indefinite detention--see here, here, and Friday's NYT here. These detainees present by far the toughest policy and constitutional problems for the administration.
While the House's move today may help smooth the way for the administration to close Guantanamo, it seems nearly certain at this point that the administration will miss its January 22 deadline to close the camp.
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