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Holder, GOP Spar Over Fate of Guantanamo Detainees

Attorney General Eric Holder sparred with congressional Republicans Thursday over the future of inmates currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. Special correspondent Simon Marks reports on the arguments and focuses on the fate of a group of Muslims from China, known as Uighurs.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Next, the political battle over the detainees still being held at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Attorney General Eric Holder sparred with Republicans in Congress today over the future of the inmates being held at Guantanamo, as special correspondent Simon Marks reports.

  • SIMON MARKS:

    The attorney general was on Capitol Hill this morning testifying at a U.S. Senate hearing on the Justice Department's budget.

    But the talk soon turned to the president's executive order, signed two days after his inauguration, that mandates the closure of the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Last week, in Europe, the attorney general announced that 30 of the 241 remaining Guantanamo inmates have now been approved for release, seven years after the detention center opened. At its height, it housed more than 625 prisoners.

    Today, as the U.S. presses European nations to accept some of the detainees awaiting freedom, Washington is coming under pressure to do the same.

    ERIC HOLDER, attorney general: The paramount consideration that we will have is the safety of the American people.

  • SIMON MARKS:

    In a contentious exchange with Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the attorney general said the Obama administration has no plans to allow terrorists to walk the streets of the USA.

  • ERIC HOLDER:

    A transfer or release of these detainees will only happen in those instances where we are convinced that that can be done in a way that the communities that receive them — overseas, with our allies — will not have any impact on the safety of the place that is receiving — that is receiving them.

  • SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, R-Ala.:

    Excuse me a minute. Excuse me. Are you saying that, one, you believe you have the legal authority to bring terrorists into this country and disperse them around the country in the communities?

  • ERIC HOLDER:

    What I'm saying is that, with regard to those who you would describe as terrorists, we would not bring them into this country and release them, anybody who we consider to be a terrorist.

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