Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, today the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State will appear before the Appropriations Committee to support the administration's request for funding to execute our combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They will be explaining the need to expend more than $80 billion in our efforts to defeat the Taliban, al-Qaida, and to preserve our security gains in Iraq.
The administration's request also includes $80 million to close the secure detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Yet rather than appear before the Senate to explain why these funds are necessary, and what the administration plans to do with the terrorists housed at Guantanamo, Attorney General Holder chose to deliver a speech in Berlin yesterday in which he reiterated the administration's intent to close it.
During that speech, Attorney General Holder acknowledged once again that Guantanamo is ``run in an efficient, professional manner.'' He said detainees there are treated humanely. Yet Guantanamo must be closed, he said, because it represents, as he put it, a time and an approach that we want to put behind us. And keeping this so-called symbol open ``makes America less safe'' and makes our friends, including Europeans, ``less secure.''
It is clear from these remarks that the administration is putting symbolism ahead of safety. This becomes even more apparent from Attorney General Holder's admission that closing Guantanamo will be ``one of the most daunting challenges'' he will face. He clearly realizes what most Americans realize: closing Guantanamo is not a good option if no safe alternatives exist.
In an effort to circumvent this dilemma, Attorney General Holder says the U.S. will not only transfer detainees but also release some of them and try others in Federal court. Nowhere did the Attorney General mention the use of the military commissions process that Congress passed on a bipartisan basis at the direction of the Supreme Court. The Attorney General's comments present a whole range of new problems and potential dangers that some of my colleagues will detail throughout the day.
Attorney General Holder also failed to address recent news reports that the administration was considering releasing Guantanamo detainees into American communities. On April 2, Senator Sessions sent the Attorney General a letter asking him what legal authority the administration has to release detainees who have participated in terrorist-related activities into the United States. The Attorney General still has not responded to Senator Sessions. But it is a question the American people want answered right away.
This weekend I will be attending the Kentucky Derby with well over 100,000 Kentuckians and other Americans, and if I asked every one of them if they thought sending terrorists to our neighborhoods was a good plan, I would get more than 100,000 resounding ``noes.''
Since the administration has not given any indication where it plans to put the 240 terrorists currently housed at Guantanamo, the Attorney General was asked in Berlin if any of the detainees could be put up in hotels. According to the Associated Press report on the meeting, the Attorney General joked that ``hotels might be a possibility, it depends on where the hotel is.''
The question of where the terrorists at Guantanamo will be sent is no joking matter--and the administration needs to tell the American people how it will keep the terrorists at Guantanamo out of our neighborhoods and off of the battlefield. Its one thing not to have a plan. It is another to joke about not having one.