President Obama's own party is undercutting his plans to try to close the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Senate Democrats say they're pulling the $80 million from the war spending bill he requested to close Gitmo. They say they need to know more about what the president plans to do with the detainees first.
Republican Senator James Inhofe says he will do everything possible to make sure that Gitmo detainees do not end up here on U.S. soil. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.
Kiran Chetry: Why are you so strongly opposed to allowing detainees from Guantanamo in to the U.S. either for detention or trial?
James Inhofe: The problem is – and they had suggested at one time, this came out of the White House, that they had some 17 places in the United States where they would put these detainees. The problem with that is they becomes magnets to terrorism... In fact, 27 of our states have passed resolutions to their state legislatures not to allow them to come in to their particular states. So there's a good reason for that.
The other problem that I have is that if somehow they come in to our country and we can't use tribunals because we don't have facilities for that, they go into the court system, they could very well be turned loose because the rules of evidence are different with tribunals… with detainees than they are with criminals. So that's a serious problem. I go one step further though, Kiran. I don't want to close Gitmo. It’s a great resource. Every team that's gone there including Eric Holder has come back with glowing reports – how well people are treated, one doctor for every two detainees. There’s no place where they can be treated as well as Gitmo. It’s a great resource.
Chetry: Isn't it turning into a problem for us in terms of how we're viewed by the world holding detainees without trials in Cuba?
Inhofe: Well, there are some other choices. And those people who are critical of that should realize the only other choices are they can either turn them loose, because their countries won't take them back – these people will be back as terrorists trying to kill people in Afghanistan and that type of thing – or they can shoot ‘em. You know, the most humane thing to do is to keep that facility open where we can conduct those tribunals. We have a special courthouse there that complies with the rules of evidence that we're actually prepared to do… There’s just not an alternative.
Chetry: We have the super-maximum security prisons here in the U.S. if indeed this goes forward. We also have detention facilities on military bases that are operated by highly trained military personnel. You don’t think that those facilities could keep some of these detainees secure and at the same time protecting the surrounding communities?
Inhofe: No I don't, Kiran. I’ll tell you why. I went down to one of the facilities they talked about, Fort Sill in my state of Oklahoma. I went down there. And Sgt. Major Carter was in charge of the facility. She had had two tours of Gitmo. And she said, Senator, what is wrong with these people? We can't handle them down here. We're not set up to handle terrorist detainees. We don't have the facilities for it. Nowhere does. Now here’s an expert who says the only place she knows of anywhere in the world would be Gitmo. And again, there's just no logical reason to close it.
Chetry: Here in the United States there have been a number of people who have been convicted on terrorism-related charges in U.S. courts. They've gone through the U.S. courts, held in the U.S. prisons. Why can't that be replicated with the Guantanamo Bay detainees?
Inhofe: Because those individuals were actually criminals. They actually committed crimes and were not involved in the type of terrorist activity as we've been experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan. And when they - once they come in, you have to do something with them. I think it would be a very bad precedent for us to even start or even consider trying these people under our laws when the rules of evidence are different and there's no place in the United States that we could do it.
And this just isn't my opinion, this is the opinion of everyone who's gone over there to look at it. I would say also the media that goes over that's critical of Guantanamo all come back shaking their heads saying, what's wrong with that place? By the way, I have to say this Kiran, it’s one of the few good deals we have. We only pay $4,000 a year. You don't find a deal like that. We've been doing that since 1903. It’s served us well.