Terrorists won't be freed into US, Holder tells Congress

Associated Press / May 8, 2009
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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration will not release terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress yesterday as he sought to reassure lawmakers.

"We don't have any plans to release terrorists," Holder testified at a Senate hearing on the Obama administration's budget for the Justice Department. The budget proposal released yesterday requests up to $160 million to close the detention center at the US military base in Cuba.

But he said some of the detainees at the facility will be let go, indicating the administration believes some held there are not terrorists. Asked after the hearing if he believes some current Guantanamo detainees are innocent, Holder did not answer.

The attorney general faced repeated questions from lawmakers about his plans for closing Guantanamo. President Obama has ordered the center shuttered by January 2010.

Republicans critical of Obama's plan say Guantanamo detainees cannot legally be brought to the United States because federal law bars entry to anyone who has received terrorist training.

Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, pressed Holder to say whether he believed he had the authority to release someone with terrorist training into the United States. The attorney general did not directly answer Shelby's question, but said the government doesn't have any plans to release terrorists.

"With regard to those who you would describe as terrorists, we would not bring them into this country and release them, anyone we would consider to be a terrorist," Holder said.

He added the government has no plans to release anyone considered a terrorist in a foreign country, either.

Last week in Europe, Holder said about 30 Guantanamo detainees have been approved for release. He has been asking European countries to take some, but that may be difficult if the United States doesn't also take some. Republicans in Congress are fighting any such move, saying the presence of detainees would endanger communities that receive them.

There are 241 people being held at the detention center at Guantanamo. Holder said some will be released, some will be put on trial, and some "are going to be detained on a fairly extended basis."