McConnell: No American Will Penalize the Administration for Putting Safety Over Symbolism

‘The administration should reconsider its arbitrary deadline on Guantanamo just as it reconsidered its commitment to arbitrary withdrawal deadlines on Iraq’

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Monday regarding Guantanamo:

“With the administration still unsure of what to do with the detainees at Guantanamo, Attorney General Holder has described its arbitrary closing date as one of his most daunting challenges.

“Secretary Gates said some would be released or transferred overseas, some tried in American courts, and the administration doesn’t know what to do with 50-100 who can’t be released or tried.

“Clearly, the administration lacks a plan and a safe alternative for closing Guantanamo.

“So let me make a suggestion: it should reconsider its arbitrary deadline on Guantanamo just as it reconsidered its commitment to arbitrary withdrawal deadlines on Iraq.

“Once the administration has a plan to safely detain, prosecute, or transfer these detainees, the Congress should be consulted and briefed to evaluate this proposal.

“With no safe alternative, this is the only sensible approach.

“No American will penalize the administration for putting safety over symbolism — and Europe shouldn’t either, since it’s been far more critical than helpful.

“It is increasingly clear that working through the problems related to Guantanamo will require time and close consultation with Congress.

“The Senate voted 94 to 3 against sending detainees to American soil – even if only to prisons.

“Secretary Gates has conceded that no one wants these detainees in their communities.

“The legal authority for releasing trained terrorists is in question — a concern the administration hasn't publicly addressed at all.

“The administration hasn’t decided if it will use the military commissions process that Congress passed on a bipartisan basis at the suggestion of the Supreme Court.

“Finally, the administration hasn’t said how it plans to deal with the problem of terrorists we release returning to the battlefield — even as the DoD has confirmed that 18 released prisoners have returned to terrorism and that at least 40 more are suspected as having done so.

“The American people want to keep the terrorists at Guantanamo out of their neighborhoods and off of the battlefield. At this point, the only way we can assure them that neither one of these things will occur is for the administration to keep this secure facility open until it develops a sensible plan for the Congress to evaluate.

“We remain a nation at war with ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite disagreements over the best way to combat international terrorism, the truth remains that we haven’t been attacked at home since 9/11.

“That is a record we want to continue, and maintaining a safe and secure way to detain terrorists is a critical part of protecting the American people.”