(Host) Both of Vermont’s U.S. senators say they support President Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center by the end of the year.
Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders also say they could support relocating some of the suspected terrorists to maximum security prisons in the U.S.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) A major debate has broken out in Congress about the possibility of moving some of the 240 suspected terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay to high security prisons in this country.
Many Republicans strongly oppose this action and a number of Democrats do as well including Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.
Senator Patrick Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee. He says his panel plans to look at ways to close the Guantanamo detention center by the end of the year because he says the use of torture at the Center has hurt the image of the United States around the world.
And Leahy says he’s confident that it’s safe to move some of the detainees to maximum-security prisons in this country:
(Leahy) "I think we’re in a new day where America re-establishes to the rest of the world that we adhere to our values. I am not afraid of this – not when we spend billions and billions of dollars to put together a justice system that can handle them, a prison system that can handle them, a military system that can handle them, otherwise we’ve got to ask ourselves ‘what did we spend all that money for’?"
(Kinzel) And Leahy says fears that some of the detainees might escape from U.S. prisons and commit acts of terrorism in this country are unfounded:
(Leahy) "We can protect ourselves. I think everybody ought to just stop, take a deep breath, stop being afraid of your shadow and understand we are the United States of America. We have the best police force, we have the best justice system, we have the best military – we can protect America."
(Kinzel) Senator Bernie Sanders wants a special commission to review the evidence for every suspected terrorist at Guantanamo to determine if some of them are being held improperly.
Sanders says he’s doesn’t object to bringing some of the most serious cases to U.S. prisons:
(Sanders) "Where is the best place to locate these people? Can we accommodate some of them in the United States? Do I think we have the capability of doing that? Of course we do. Might it be better to put all of them in a segregated facility someplace else on a territory that might be more conducive to this kind of thing? Maybe. I frankly don’t know all the answers for that, but what I do know is that Guantanamo has got to be shut down and we need to take a hard look at the fate of all of these detainees."
(Kinzel) Sanders says he’ll support money to close the Guantanamo center once the special commission has completed its work.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.