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Monday, April 30, 2007

Senator Feinstein Introduces Legislation to Close Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

-Bill requires transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to other detention facilities-

Washington, DC -- U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation (pdf) today to close the Department of Defense detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within one year of the bill's enactment.

It is the first measure introduced in the Senate to close the Guantanamo Bay facility.

 Senator Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is deeply concerned that open-ended detentions and documented reports of detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay have tarnished America's reputation and complicated our efforts to fight global terrorism.

 "Guantanamo Bay has become a lightning rod for international condemnation," Senator Feinstein said. "This has greatly damaged the nation's credibility around the world. Rather than make the United States safer, the image projected by this facility puts us at greater risk. The time has come to close it down."

"I want to be clear. I am absolutely opposed to releasing any terrorists, Taliban fighters or anyone else held at Guantanamo who is committed to harming the United States.

"At the same time, we must recognize the sustained damage this facility is doing to our international standing. We are better served by closing this facility and transferring the detainees elsewhere."

The legislation Senator Feinstein has introduced requires that, within one year of the date of enactment:

Guantanamo Bay detainees who are found by the Department of Defense to pose no continuing security threat to the United States or its allies, and who have committed no crime, could be released.

"I believe this legislation works in our national interest in several ways," Senator Feinstein said. "First, it helps to remove a symbol that directly harms our reputation as the world's leader in support for the rule of law. Closing this facility will restore our moral authority, and make our nation more effective in the fight against global terror.

"And conducting trials elsewhere, either in the United States or before internationally recognized tribunals, will give these proceedings a credibility that they would likely not have if they were conducted at Guantanamo Bay."

The Bush Administration began using the Guantanamo Bay facility in January 2002, four months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States and on the heels of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Roughly 750 individuals suspected of being either Taliban fighters or al Qaeda irregulars have been sent to Guantanamo Bay. About 350 are there today.

 Throughout much of Guantanamo Bay's operation, the Bush Administration contended that detainees were not subject to protections under the Geneva Conventions, a position likely to make American troops captured on the battlefield face abuse from our enemies. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Administration must honor the Geneva Conventions.

Following is a brief chronology of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility:

"The abuses at Guantanamo Bay are well-documented and cover a period of several years. The President himself has said that he would like the detention facility closed. Yet it is clear that the Administration shows no inclination to close it," Senator Feinstein said.

"My bill takes action where the Administration has failed to do so. I urge the Senate to support it, and I urge the President to sign it into law."