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Public Statements

Department Of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the decision to move the remaining detainees held at Guantanamo Bay Naval facility, or Gitmo, to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois.

The decision to transfer Gitmo detainees to the heartland of our country is irresponsible, a waste of taxpayer dollars, and contrary to the wishes of the American people.

Congress has included language permitting the transfer or detention of Gitmo detainees to the United States only under certain limited conditions in every relevant appropriations bill passed this year, including the recently passed Omnibus Appropriations Act. That is one of the reasons I voted against every single one of those bills.

The President now has made the decision to purchase the Thomson Correctional Center from the State of Illinois for the purpose of transferring and detaining Gitmo detainees.

Further, the President stated he will need to expend millions of additional dollars renovating and securing the facility when much has already been invested in the state-of-the-art facility at Guantanamo Bay. This unnecessary spending is an abuse of our tax dollars and one that holds dire national security consequences.

The administration claims that many of these detainees will continue to be held by the military in the same prison where the Department of Justice will hold average, ordinary criminals. What the administration fails to tell the American people is that these detainees will obtain the same rights as U.S. citizens the moment they step inside the United States. We have already seen detainees attempt to gain these same rights as Americans in our courts and have seen the courts grant them limited rights without them being inside the United States.

In habeas corpus cases where the court has ruled, 30 out of 38 Gitmo detainees have been found to be unlawfully detained and their release has been ordered. After reviewing the classified biographies on some of these individuals, it is clear from these decisions that the courts are not in a position to judge matters of war and cannot when they are bound by our criminal justice system. It is not designed to handle war criminals.

The courts do not adequately consider the threat these individuals pose to U.S. interests or will pose in the future when they return to terrorism. President Obama cites the authorization for the use of military force as legal justification for continuing the detention of these terrorists. However, the courts have already indicated that these detainees cannot be indefinitely held. I wonder if the administration considered this when it decided to move Gitmo detainees to the United States.

This administration may face the same problem as the last administration did in justifying to a U.S. court the continuing detention of these terrorists. Only this time, the court will have a remedy.

It is foreseeable that some, and possibly many, of those detainees will be ordered released by our courts. The administration has tried to assure the public that our immigration laws will prohibit the release of those individuals into the United States. But, once again, this administration fails to appreciate the limits of our legal system. Once these detainees are physically present in the United States, prior judicial precedent indicates that the government can only detain an individual while immigration removal proceedings are ongoing for a maximum of 6 months. If a detainee cannot be transferred or deported, they will be released, freed into the United States, after 6 months. This is much more than just moving Guantanamo north.

On the other hand, if the administration is able to secure the transfer of these detainees to another country, we can be sure to watch the recidivism rates rise. The Department of Defense's last unclassified fact sheet on recidivism reported that 14 percent of the former Gitmo detainees returned to terrorism after their release or their transfer. This is almost one out of every seven detainees transferred. This number is much larger now after 8 months and countless transfers of the most serious terrorists.

Some of the detainees transferred openly admit their affiliation with a terrorist organization or that they were combating U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Confirming this, two former Gitmo detainees transferred to Saudi Arabia announced earlier this year that they were now the leaders of al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula. Another detainee, Ali bin Ali Aleh, lived with Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan and was identified on a list of names in Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's possession when KSM was captured. Ali bin Ali Aleh was determined not to be an enemy combatant and ordered to be released by a U.S. court in May of this year. He was transferred to Yemen in September.

Maybe some of my colleagues have seen the recent headlines indicating that some European countries are willing to accept these detainees. In fact, detainees have recently been transferred to Belgium, Ireland, Hungary, and Italy. However, the American people are not fooled by these headlines. Of the 779 detainees held since 2001 at Guantanamo Bay, our European partners have accepted only 37. The vast majority of detainees--almost 400--have been transferred to four countries: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Yemen. These four countries are either currently in conflict or actively combating al-Qaida. In all four of these countries, the threat from al-Qaida and associate militants has done nothing but increase over the past few years. Yet the United States is sending back hundreds of terrorists to the most volatile regions of the world--South Asia, which poses the greatest terrorist threat currently to the homeland and to the Arabian peninsula, which I believe will present itself as the next greatest threat to the United States.

The decision to move these terrorists to the United States may force the administration to choose between freeing terrorists into Illinois or transferring them back to the center of the battle. Is this the policy position we want to put our country in while we are still combating terrorism?

No one doubts the security of our prisons to safely hold these individuals. I doubt the ability of our laws and judicial system to ensure that these terrorists are convicted or kept in prison. Prohibiting the detainees from entering the United States is the only guarantee. However, the decision to move the remaining terrorists at Gitmo to the heart of this country shattered any remaining hope for this guarantee. This is yet another step in a series of poor policy decisions which is leading our country in the wrong direction.

I am disappointed by this decision, obviously. But I can only imagine how the residents of Illinois feel about it. I know Georgians would not be pleased with housing over 200 of the most serious and hardened terrorists in the world in their backyard.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.


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