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Debate Over Guantanamo, Detainees Continues

BY Admin  May 22, 2009 at 10:55 AM EST

Guantanamo detainee; AFP/Getty photo

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appearing on NBC’s “Today”
show Friday in a previously taped interview, defended the president’s plan,
saying that Mr. Obama had no choice but to close the prison at Guantanamo
because “the name itself is a condemnation” of U.S. anti-terrorism
strategy.

Congressional Republicans, however, came out swinging against
the proposed plan to place some detainees in highly secure facilities inside
the United States. “Most Americans don’t want them in this country,
period, especially when we have a state-of-the-art facility at Guantanamo –
better and safer than anything we have” in the United States, said GOP Sen.
Richard Shelby of Alabama.

“No good purpose is served by allowing known
terrorists, who trained at terrorist training camps, to come to the U.S. to
live among us,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

“Guantanamo has worked very well,” Senate Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after President Obama’s speech. “I’m
not sure this is broke and needs fixing.”

In response, Gates asserted that Mr. Obama has “no
interest whatsoever in releasing publicly detainees who might come back to harm
Americans.” He added that that “we have many terrorists in United
States’ prisons today,” and decried “fear-mongering about this.”

During his speech Thursday at the National Archives, President
Obama stressed that “nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal Supermax
prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists.”

President Obama may find support for his efforts from two
previous rivals: Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of
South Carolina. Both have supported closing the prison. “The idea that we
cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the United
States is not rational. We have done this before,” Graham said this week.
“But it is my belief that you need a plan before you close Gitmo.”

But the debate over how to meet President Obama’s January
deadline for closing the Guantanamo prison camp is unlikely to be settled in
the near future. Earlier this week, the Senate rejected an $80 million request
from the White House for funds to close the prison.