Top lawmakers on Sunday urged President Barack Obama to delay his January deadline to shut the Guantanamo Bay prison, arguing more time was needed to resolve complex issues vexing the closure.
"I think we ought to leave Guantanamo open. It’s a 200 million dollar state-of-the-art facility. No one has ever escaped from there," argued Republican minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell.
"It has court rooms for the military commissions trials which the president has now correctly, in my view, decided … maybe that’s a good way to try some of these terrorists after all."
Obama has ordered the notorious facility to close by January 22, 2010, and has set up a review of each of cases against the 241 prisoners from 30 countries still held at the remote US naval base in southeastern Cuba.
But on Friday the US leader said he was reviving military commissions to try those people rounded up in the US "war on terror" who still face charges.
The idea of bringing inmates to the United States to face trial has raised hackles here, and McConnell argued on Fox New Sunday that the best place to handle those hearings was at Guantanamo Bay.
"There’s no reason in the world to bring these people to the United States. I don’t think there’s a community in America that’s going to be interested in taking them," he said.
His comments where echoed by both Republican Senator Jon Kyl, the Senate’s minority whip, and Democratic Senator Jim Webb.
"I think that the people who have been held in Guantanamo are being charged essentially for acts of international terror, for acts of war, and they don’t belong in judicial system, and they don’t belong in our jails," Webb told ABC’s This Week.
"And there are facilities built in Guantanamo right now that are able to do that."
Asked if he thought Obama’s timetable for shutting the facility was reasonable, Webb replied: "No, I don’t, actually."
"I think Guantanamo has become the great Rorschach test of how we feel about international terrorism. We should, at the right time, close Guantanamo. But I don’t think that it should be closed, in terms of transferring people here."
Kyl said Republicans in the House of Representatives would take up a bill next week to block funding for closing Guantanamo unless there were assurances that none of the detainees would be brought to the United States.
"The remaining 240 or so do pose a danger. So there aren’t any left that can easily be released because they don’t pose a danger," Kyl added.
"There are some people that you try, very few, some more that you try in the military commissions, and we’ve always had military commissions of one kind or another," Kyl said.