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Center for American Progress

RELEASE: GOP Detainee Bills Represent Return to Bush Policies
Press Release

RELEASE: GOP Detainee Bills Represent Return to Bush Policies

By Ken Gude, March 11, 2011

To read the full column, click here.

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released the column, "GOP Detainee Bills Represent Return to Bush Policies," by Ken Gude, Managing Director of the National Security and International Policy Program, discussing the extreme provisions in the House and Senate GOP bills relating to detaining terrorists and recommending that the Obama administration resist GOP proposals.

The release of the Obama administration executive order on detention on Monday and the resumption of military commissions came just days before House and Senate Republicans unveiled their own terrorist detainee legislation this week. These new bills have one goal: to destroy President Barack Obama’s efforts to clean up the disastrous Bush detainee policy. The Obama administration must clearly signal early and often that it will not engage in any talks with Republicans who don’t want to close Guantanamo Bay prison and would make it worse.

New House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) wasted no time in rushing out a Republican response to the Obama administration’s moves. Rep. McKeon’s bill, should it become law, would enshrine Guantanamo as a permanent fixture with vastly increased detention power than ever contemplated during the Bush administration and would expand the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force well beyond those terrorist groups connected to the September 11 attacks.

This bill would require any suspected terrorist in the custody of the United States to be held in military detention at Guantanamo. Any level of terrorist activity would now likely carry a life sentence since the bill effectively prohibits the transfer of any detainees out of Guantanamo, either to the United States or to any other country. Requiring military detention for any terrorism-related offense goes far beyond anything the Bush administration implemented—though it dabbled in this practice with horrible results.

The bill also expands and makes permanent the restrictions on transfers in current law. That means no Guantanamo detainee could be transferred to the United States and no Guantanamo detainee could be transferred to a country with a case of so-called Guantanamo recidivism. Onerous security requirements on transfers to third countries without recidivist concerns that have effectively shut off that option are extended, too.

Six senators led by John McCain (R-AZ) introduced similar detainee legislation Thursday. The Senate bill forces all suspected terrorists to military detention, eliminates trials in federal court for suspected terrorists, severely restricts or forestalls transfers out of Guantanamo, and expands the president’s war-making powers, including the added bonus of the freedom to target specific individuals.

The Obama administration’s resumption of military commissions and the system of law of war detention at Guantanamo already represent major compromises. In response, congressional Republicans want to restore and make permanent some of the worst aspects of the Bush detention policy. The Obama administration needs to stand firm. It should not make any more concessions on detention policy and make clear that the Republican bills represent an unwelcome return to the dark days of President George W. Bush.

To read the full column, click here.

Ken Gude is the Managing Director of the National Security and International Policy Program at American Progress.

More on military detention:

To speak to Ken Gude, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or [email protected].

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