Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama is asking for more than $230 million in the 2011 budget to buy and prepare an idle Illinois prison to house terrorism suspects now detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Justice Department budget for 2011 unveiled Monday calls for about $172 million for the federal government to acquire and renovate the state-owned prison in Thomson, Illinois, and another $66 million to eventually staff and equip it.
The budget requires congressional approval, and several lawmakers in both the House and Senate have vowed to block the funds, potentially preventing the transfer of many of the 192 remaining Guantanamo detainees to U.S. soil.
"Even though Americans are facing tremendous economic challenges, the administration has chosen to spend $237 million dollars in taxpayer money to provide free travel, room and board in Thomson, Illinois for some of the most dangerous Guantanamo detainees," said a statement Monday by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It is time for the President to focus on the security and economic needs of the American people, rather than on the needs of those dangerous extremists who seek to do us harm."
Washington (CNN) - A recommendation by the Obama administration's Guantanamo Detainee Review Task Force to continue holding nearly 50 detainees indefinitely without charges sparked fury among civil liberties groups Friday.
The recommendation, confirmed to CNN by two government sources not authorized to release the information, was completed by a task force under the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder and sent to President Barack Obama for final approval.
The confidential review recommending a disposition for each of the 196 remaining Guantanamo detainees was first reported by the Washington Post.
The review proposes that 47 detainees be held without charges or trial because they are considered too dangerous to release, and because trials could jeopardize intelligence and harm national security, government sources said.
"If you close Guantanamo but leave individuals detained without charge or trial you're just making a cosmetic change," Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, told CNN.
Washington (CNN) - Police arrested more than a dozen people inside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday and more than two dozen outside it as they protested the detention of terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The protest came the day before the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's pledge to close the detention facility.
The protesters, who said they are part of a group called Witness Against Torture, said they are upset Obama has not closed the prison despite his executive order to do so by Friday.
U.S. Capitol Police arrested 14 people inside the Capitol and another 28 just outside on charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, according to spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.
Washington (CNN) – The United States is halting for now its plans to continue transferring terror suspects detained at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility to Yemen, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
"While we remain committed to closing the (Guantanamo) facility, the determination has been made that right now, any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea," Gibbs told his daily media briefing. Critics of the Guantanamo transfers have raised concerns over political instability in Yemen and the presence of al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, noting that some previous detainees released to Yemen by the Bush administration have renewed their terrorist ties.
Gibbs said Yemen is "not capable of handling" additional returned detainees now.
“We’ve killed some of the al Qaeda leaders and every dead al Qaeda leader is a success. But all we have is a body count,” former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
But Scheuer suggested that such individual successes could be misleading.
“We now have al Qaeda – the main al Qaeda – in the Pakistan and Afghanistan theater. We have a fully fledged wing in Yemen. We have a full fledged wing in Iraq, a fully fledged wing in north Africa and a nascent wing in Somalia. How can [al Qaeda] be less threatening to us?”
The threat posed by al Qaeda is “much greater than it was on 9/11,” Scheuer told CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
On the same day that John Brennan, a top homeland security adviser to President Obama, said some detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facility would eventually be returned to Yemen, Scheuer suggested that trying to rehabilitate Gitmo detainees was a foolhardy endeavor.
Washington (CNN) - The United States still intends to send some Yemeni detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility back to Yemen despite a terrorist threat there, President Barack Obama's terrorism czar said Sunday.
John Brennan, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the failed Christmas Day terror attack on a U.S. airliner doesn't change the plan to close the Guantanamo facility.
On Saturday, Obama linked the airline bombing suspect to an al Qaeda affiliate based in Yemen.
Brennan called the failed attack on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan a "unique incident" that won't affect the process of closing the Guantanamo facility.
"We are making sure that we don't do anything that's going to put Americans at risk," Brennan said.
Washington (CNN) - Some terrorism suspects held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be moved to an Illinois prison that the federal government will buy to hold them, the Obama administration announced Tuesday.
Fewer than 100 Guantanamo detainees would come to the maximum-security Thomas Correctional Center, 150 miles west of Chicago, said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois. Republican Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois put the figure at 70.
The federal government will buy the prison and enhance one section of it to make it exceed perimeter security standards at the nation's only "supermax" prison in Colorado, according to a letter to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair.
About 215 detainees are held at the controversial U.S. detention facility in Cuba, and finding a place to move some of the detainees was crucial to government plans to close it.
By closing Guantanamo, "we are removing from terrorist organizations around the world the recruiting tool" the detention center symbolizes, said retired Marine Gen. James Jones, the national security adviser to President Obama.
Washington (CNN) – A limited number of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison will be transferred to a prison in Illinois, President Obama will announce Tuesday, a senior administration official said.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Richard Durbin will go to the White House on Tuesday for a briefing on the plan to use Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, to help shut down the controversial facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Illinois state officials have said the plan would call for housing federal prisoners, including some detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in the largely vacant maximum-security facility in northern Illinois.
The governor and other officials have said such a deal could provide up to 2,000 jobs and up to $1 billion in federal money to the area.
Washington (CNN) - The official in charge of closing the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center has resigned, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Phillip Carter had submitted his resignation letter on Friday, after just under seven months in the post, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.
Morrell said Carter's move was prompted by personal and family reasons.
The Obama administration has vowed to close the Guantanamo facility, but acknowledges it is unlikely to happen by its self-imposed deadline of January 22, 2010.
About 215 men are held there. They include alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who, officials said on November 13, will be transferred to New York to go on trial in civilian court.
Carter, a lawyer and Army veteran, joined the administration April 27 after writing briefs in two key Supreme Court cases related to detainee policy.
His title was deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy.
–CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount contributed to this report.
Washington (CNN) – Attorney General Eric Holder defended his decision Wednesday to try five suspected 9/11 terrorists in civilian court.
"We are at war and we will use every instrument of national power - civilian, military, law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic and others –to win," he told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We need not cower in the face of this enemy. Our institutions are strong."
Holder announced last week that the suspected terrorists - including confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - will be tried in civilian court in New York City.
All five suspects have been held in the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Critics of Holder's decision have argued that the suspects should be tried by a military tribunal.