WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday regarding the threats and legal questions posed by the potential transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States:
“There now appears to be wide bipartisan agreement in the Senate that closing Guantanamo before the administration has a plan to deal with the detainees there was a bad idea. Senators will make it official today with their votes.
“For months, we have been saying what Senate Democrats now acknowledge: that because the administration has no plan for what to do with the 240 detainees at Guantanamo, it would be irresponsible and dangerous for the Senate to appropriate the money to close it.
“So I commend Senate Democrats for fulfilling their oversight responsibilities by refusing to provide any funding to close Guantanamo until the administration can prove to the American people that closing Guantanamo will not make us less safe than Guantanamo has. Those of us in Congress have a responsibility to American servicemen and women risking their lives abroad and to the citizens here at home. Congress will demonstrate its seriousness about that responsibility when it votes against an open-ended plan to release or transfer detainees at Guantanamo.
“The administration has shown a good deal of flexibility on matters of national security over the past few months — on Iraq, for example, in not insisting on an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal; on military commissions, by deciding to resume their use; on prisoner photos, by concluding that releasing them would jeopardize the safety of our servicemen and women; and on Afghanistan, by replicating the surge strategy there that’s worked in Iraq.
“I hope the administration will show more of this flexibility by changing its position on its arbitrary deadline for closing Guantanamo. Americans don’t want some of the most dangerous men alive coming here or released overseas, where they can return to the fight, as many other detainees who’ve been released from Guantanamo already have.
“Some will argue that terrorists can be housed safely in the U.S. based on past experience. But we’ve already seen the disruption that just one terrorist caused in Alexandria, Virginia. And the number of detainees the administration now wants to transfer stateside is an order of magnitude greater than anything we’ve considered before. It’s one thing to transfer one or two terrorists — disruptive as that may be. It’s quite another to transfer 50-100, or more, as Secretary Gates has said would be involved in any transfer from Guantanamo.
“In my view, these men are exactly where they belong: locked up in a safe and secure prison, and isolated many miles away from the American people. Guantanamo is a secure state-of-the-art facility. It’s got courtrooms for military commissions. Everyone who visits is impressed with it. Even the administration acknowledges that Guantanamo is humane and well-run. Americans want these men kept out of their backyards and off the battlefield. Guantanamo guarantees it.
“The administration has said that the safety of the American people is its top priority. I have no doubt that this is true, and that’s precisely why the administration should rethink its plan to close Guantanamo by a date certain. It should have focused on a plan for these terrorists first. Once it has one, we’ll consider closing Guantanamo, but not a second sooner.”