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House Panel’s Language Blocking Obama’s GTMO Closure Plan

As reported here on Thursday, the House Armed Services Committee set the Obama administration’s plans for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay back significantly last week. Marking up the next fiscal year’s defense bill, the panel voted unanimously to prevent the Defense Department from spending any money to buy the Thomson Corrections Center in Illinois — a necessary step for the administration to transfer Guantanamo’s remaining detainee population ahead of finally shuttering the place.

Last week, however, the committee only released a summary of its language. Now the full text is available, ahead of this week’s House floor vote on the bill. Here’s what the Fiscal Year 2011 Defense Authorization actually says about Obama’s Guantanamo plan:

SEC. 1034. PROHIBITION ON THE USE OF FUNDS TO MODIFY OR CONSTRUCT FACILITIES IN THE UNITED STATES TO HOUSE DETAINEES TRANSFERRED FROM UNITED STATES NAVAL STATION, GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA.

(a) IN GENERAL.—None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be used to construct or modify any facility in the United States, its territories, or possessions to house any individual described in subsection (c) for the purposes of detention or imprisonment in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense.

But the committee doesn’t close a door without opening a window, so the mark-up text requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report by next April ahead of any such Thomson-based or Thomson-like transfer of Guantanamo detainees, spelling out in more detail what the administration’s planning is on the controversial subject.

(d) REPORT ON USE OF FACILITIES IN THE UNITED STATES TO HOUSE DETAINEES TRANSFERRED FROM

GUANTANAMO.—

(1) REPORT REQUIRED.—Not later than April 1, 2011, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the con- gressional defense committees a report, in classified or unclassified form, on the merits, costs, and risks of using any proposed facility in the United States, its territories, or possessions to house any individual described in subsection (c) for the purposes of detention or imprisonment in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense.

(2) ELEMENTS OF THE REPORT.—The report required in paragraph (1) shall include each of the following:

(A) A discussion of the merits associated with any such proposed facility that would justify—

(i) using the facility instead of the facility at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and

(ii) the proposed facility’s contribution to effecting a comprehensive policy for continuing military detention operations. (B) The rationale for selecting the specific

site for any such proposed facility, including details for the processes and criteria used for identifying the merits described in subparagraph (A) and for selecting the proposed site over reasonable alternative sites.

(C) A discussion of any potential risks to any community in the vicinity of any such proposed facility, the measures that could be taken to mitigate such risks, and the likely cost to the Department of Defense of implementing such measures.

(D) A discussion of any necessary modifications to any such proposed facility to ensure that any detainee transferred from Guantanamo Bay to such facility could not come into contact with any other individual, including any other person detained at such facility, that is not approved for such contact by the Department of Defense, and an assessment of the likely costs of such modifications.

(E) A discussion of any support at the site of any such proposed facility that would likely be provided by the Department of Defense, including the types of support, the number of personnel required for each such type, and an estimate of the cost of such support.

(F) A discussion of any support, other than support provided at a proposed facility, that would likely be provided by the Department of Defense for the operation of any such proposed facility, including the types of possible support, the number of personnel required for each such type, and an estimate of the cost of such support.

(G) A discussion of the legal issues, in the judgment of the Secretary of Defense, that could be raised as a result of detaining or imprisoning any individual described in subsection (c) at any such proposed facility that could not be raised while such individual is detained or imprisoned at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On Friday, however, White House Press Secretary Robert Gates floated the prospect that the House committee’s setback could prompt the Justice Department to use its budgeted money to fund the Guantanamo transfer, thereby keeping the prospect of closing Guantanamo this year alive.

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