Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fiery Debate Continues in Senate over Guantanamo Prison

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fiery Debate Continues in Senate over Guantanamo Prison

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * The fiery debate over whether to close the Guantanamo Bay prison sparked anew Thursday as President Barack Obama's administration pushed back against a bill to restrict it from transferring terrorism suspects to other countries, while protesters in orange jumpsuits shouted it should be shuttered posthaste.

Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said a bill proposed by four powerful GOP senators would effectively ban most transfers from Guantanamo for two years, placing a roadblock in Obama's stepped-up effort to winnow the prison's population and eventually close it.

"Because this legislation, if enacted, would effectively block progress toward the goal of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the administration opposes it," McKeon told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican, argued against closure.

"In my opinion, the only problem of Guantanamo Bay is there are too many empty beds and cells there right now," Cotton said. "We should be sending more terrorists there for further interrogation to keep the country safe. As far as I'm concerned, every last one of them can rot in hell, but as long as they don't do that, then they can rot in Guantanamo Bay!"

Nearly a dozen protesters, dressed in T-shirts that read "Shut down Gitmo," were just as passionate.

One male protester stood up in the middle of the hearing and shouted that some of the detainees are innocent of their alleged crimes and should never have been held at all. "Let's have the rule of law back," he yelled as he was led out of the hearing.

When Obama took office six years ago, there were 242 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Today there are 122. Of those, 54 are eligible for transfer, 10 are being prosecuted or have been sentenced, and the cases of the other 58 are being reviewed. …

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