The Obama administration is looking at creating a courtroom-within-a-prison complex in the U.S. to house suspected terrorists, combining military and civilian detention facilities at a single maximum-security prison.
Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the 134-year-old military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the 229 suspected al-Qaida, Taliban and foreign fighters now jailed at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
The officials outlined the plans — the latest effort to comply with President Barack Obama’s order to close the prison camp by Jan. 22, 2010, and satisfy congressional and public fears about incarcerating terror suspects on American soil — on condition of anonymity because the options are under review.
White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said Friday that no decisions have been made about the proposal. But the White House considers the courtroom-prison complex as the best among a series of bad options, an administration official said.
For months, government lawyers and senior officials at the Pentagon, Justice Department and the White House have struggled with how to close the internationally reviled U.S. Navy prison at Guantanamo.
Congress has blocked $80 million intended to bring the detainees to the United States. Lawmakers want the administration to say how it plans to make the moves without putting Americans at risk.
The facility would operate as a hybrid prison system jointly operated by the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security.
Scott Silliman, director of Duke University’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, called the proposal "totally unprecedented" and said he doubts the plan would work without Congress’ involvement.