Democrats, Obama Reach Accord on Gitmo Detainees
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration reached an agreement yesterday that would allow the White House to bring detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the United States for trial, but not allow them to be jailed here permanently.
The agreement came as Democrats sought to break an impasse on war funding legislation now being considered in Congress. The provision, if passed, would effectively ratify the administration's decision earlier this week to move a Tanzanian man named Ahmed Ghailani from Guantanamo to New York on Tuesday to face capital charges in the 1998 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
The agreement could help Obama implement his goal of closing the prison by next January, but it must still be passed in Congress next week as part of the funding bill, which includes about $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate voted 90-6 last month to block any incarceration of detainees in the United States, and Republicans have suggested they could try to block any move to bring detainees here.
"This is something I know the American people don't want and I hope my Democrat friends aren't going to line up and support President Obama and bring these terrorists to the United States," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)
It is likely that Congress will strip out a provision that would ban the release of photos depicting the abuse of detainees held by U.S. authorities abroad before the bill's final passage. The provision had been approved by the Senate last month at the urging of the Obama administration, which says the release of the photos could endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by increasing anti-American opinion.
But a bloc of House Democrats had said they would not back the larger funding bill if that provision was included. Some of the Democrats simply want the pictures released, while others said they object to the provision, which overrides the Freedom of Information Act in order to bar the release of the photos.
An appeals court has ruled the pictures must be released, but the administration appealed that ruling and has said it would seek either a change in the law or a Supreme Court decision to prevent the release of the pictures. A group of senators who support Obama's view and don't want the pictures released have said they will seek to attach the ban to other legislation in hopes of getting it passed.
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