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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Chairman, cost is a red herring argument here. Does it cost more to keep a detainee in Guantanamo than a Federal prisoner here? Probably, but nothing like the figures that have been repeatedly cited on the other side. For example, if you look back at the fiscal year '11 Department of Justice budget request for moving the detainees to the U.S., it ends up in the first year being about $1.9 million per detainee, and about $500,000 per detainee in recurring costs.

On the other side of it, even the President, in a speech at the National Defense University, said it is less than a million dollars per prisoner now on detainee. Is there a difference? Sure. Is it anything like what we've been hearing? No.

And the rest of the story is: under the Geneva Convention, if you're holding somebody under the laws of war, you cannot put them with Federal prisoners even in a supermax prison. They have to be segregated. So those costs of bringing them here are higher.

But that's not really the issue here. The issue is what is the best thing to do to secure the country and to deal with the terrorist threat. And I just remind everybody, the ban on closing Guantanamo is not permanent. We have to reapprove it every year. So if the President actually comes up with a real plan, not just a speech, but a real plan to close Guantanamo and then deal with the detainees, then that ban can go away. But you can't say okay, we're going to remove all of the restrictions and we're going to close Guantanamo, and then we're going to figure out what we're going to do with these people, and that's exactly what this amendment does. The gentleman from Washington says it just asks for a plan. The underlying bill just asks for a plan. His amendment, in addition to asking for a plan, removes all of the existing restrictions. And on page 4, subsection (D), says specifically:

No funds shall be used there to detain people after December 31, 2014.

We've got to get the plan first before it closes. I think this amendment should be rejected.


Mr. THORNBERRY. Madam Chair, I'm convinced that the arguments against missile defense are the same today that they were the day that President Reagan proposed it: you can't do it, it costs too much, and it's provocative to try.

And it doesn't really matter how the threat evolves, what North Korea or Iran do, and it doesn't really matter how the technology evolves. We just had a successful test just a few months ago.

The events and facts don't matter. The arguments are still the same, and they will always be the same because some people just don't want to defend the country against missile attack.

This committee pushed in 2010, in 2011, and in 2012 to have more interceptors on the west coast. The President opposed it every step of the way. It didn't happen. And then, all of a sudden, with North Korea this year, the President changes his mind and says, Oh, maybe you all were right after all. At least the President changed his mind. Unfortunately, it seems like some people cannot even do that.

A lot of us think the administration is not doing enough, but to do less would be negligent, and I think we should reject this amendment.


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