U.S. Senator Herb Kohl asked Attorney General Eric Holder for updates on the status of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center and the investigation of the recent shooting rampage at Fort Hood military base during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing today. Kohl, who serves on the Committee, expressed disappointment in the President's announcement this morning that his goal of closing the Guantanamo Bay facility by January 22, 2010 would not be met.
Speaking about the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Kohl said, "For too long, it has tarnished our image around the world and complicated our efforts to combat terrorism."
Kohl noted that 215 detainees currently remain at Guantanamo, and that Administration officials have said that 40 to 50 detainees will be transferred to the United States to face prosecution in federal courts or military tribunals, while about 100 others will be transferred to other countries. Kohl asked Holder about his timeline for accomplishing those goals, as well as what will happen with the remaining detainees and when the goal of closing Guantanamo will be met.
The Attorney General indicated that despite unexpected difficulties, they have made progress toward closing the detention facility. He told the Committee that decisions are still being made with respect to the remainder of the detainees, including how to proceed with those who will face prosecution and where to transfer the detainees who have been cleared for release, but that a majority of those decisions should be made before the original January 22nd goal.
Kohl also raised the recent mass murder at Fort Hood, and his concerns about whether immediate changes have been made to protect troops while an investigation is conducted.
"Wisconsin lost two brave service members during the shooting rampage at Fort Hood. It is a tragedy that while preparing to defend us from threats abroad that these brave soldiers faced danger here at home. As you know, Major Hasan came to the attention of the FBI last December because of e-mails he had written to a known terrorism suspect. But the FBI did not pursue an investigation of him because they concluded that the e-mails were consistent with his research at Walter Reed and no contact was made with the Department of Defense. I understand that a thorough investigation will take time to complete, but we need to protect our troops now. Going forward, what changes have you made or will you make to prevent something like this from happening again?" Kohl asked.
The Attorney General indicated that the Administration understands the urgency of that mission, and that the President has given them about two weeks -- until the end of November -- to report the initial findings and determinations of the investigation into the shootings.