A provision banning the Obama administration from transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States, even for trial, made its way into the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House Friday. According to reports, it was part of a deal worked out with Illinois Republicans to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Congress hammered out a compromise last week that stripped controversial measures like DADT repeal (passed instead in a standalone bill) from the defense spending bill. But Illinois Republicans, lead by Sen. Mark Kirk, warned the negotiators not to take out the Gitmo transfer ban if they wanted the bill to pass both houses.
As Lynn Sweet reported, Kirk threatened to filibuster the bill in the Senate. The transfer ban is important to the Illinois delegation because the administration has considered housing Gitmo detainees at a prison in Illinois, should it close down the detention center in Guantanamo Bay. Trials for detainees like 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, however, would likely be held in New York City.
Beyond that, as Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told Politico, leaving the transfer ban in was a way to pass DADT repeal on the House side.
“I didn’t like that,” Frank said. He added that the language would have likely reappeared in another spending bill. “We would have gotten stuck with that anyway.”
The administration, which would like to hold civilian criminal trials for KSM and other terrorism suspects, opposes the transfer ban. Attorney General Eric Holder has asked Senate leadership not to pass the language.
If passed, the ban would last until the end of September 2011, when the fiscal year ends.
[H/T Adam Serwer]