Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky used a Senate floor speech on Tuesday to urge more transparency in the Obama administration's plans to empty the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
McConnell, who opposes moving the foreign-born captives to U.S. soil, raised the question in debate on the Defense Department's request for $83.4 billion in supplemental funds. More than $81 million of it is to fund President Barack Obama's order to move or release the 240 or so detainees by Jan. 22.
''The administration needs to tell the American people what it plans to do with these men if they close Guantanamo. Two years ago the Senate voted 94-3 against sending these killers to the United States,'' he said.
"Foreign countries have thus far been unwilling to take them in any significant numbers. And even if countries were willing to take them, there's an increasing probability that some of these murderers would return to the battlefield.''
McConnell also offered a more nuanced account of a Defense Department claim of how many of the 500-plus former detainees have ''returned to the battlefield.'' He noted that the Pentagon had ''recently confirmed'' that 18 former detainees were recidivists, while noting that 40 others were also "suspected as having done so.''
The Pentagon has withheld the suspects' names, citing the need to protect its "sources and methods.''
The proposed additional funds for Guantánamo break down this way:
• $50 million to move the men. It says the money could be used for military construction projects ''not otherwise authorized by law,'' suggesting the Pentagon could build or retrofit a new lockup without an act of Congress. Or it could be used ''to provide assistance to foreign nations'' that resettle or otherwise accept some of the men.
• $30 million for the salaries and expenses of the task force Obama created to review each Guantánamo captive's case as part of the closure. The money could also be used "for the incarceration and litigation of cases that may result from the Guantánamo detainee status review.''
• $1.4 million ''for salaries and expenses'' to the Department of Justice's National Security Division, for prosecutors assigned to the Pentagon's Military Commissions, the war court the Bush administration created to prosecute alleged war criminals at Guantanamo.
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