Holder seeks help from Europe to relocate Guantanamo detainees

A guard leans on a fence and talks to a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay facility earlier this year.
Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday night, appealed to European nations to accept some of the detainees held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to help the Obama administration close down the prison facility.

“I know that Europe did not open Guantanamo, and that in fact, a great many on this continent opposed it,” Holder said in his address at the American Academy of Berlin. “To close Guantanamo, we must all make sacrifices and we must all be willing to make unpopular choices.” “The United States is ready to do its part, and we hope that Europe will join us — not out of a sense of responsibility, but from a commitment to work with one of its oldest allies to confront one of the world’s most pressing challenges,” the attorney general said. Holder did not indicate when and how the United States would release or criminally charge the detainees. Hours earlier, Holder told reporters that to date, 30 of the remaining 241 Guantanamo detainees had been cleared to be released. U.S. officials have signaled they expect at least a few of the 17 Chinese Muslims held at the naval prison to be freed in the United States. In the Berlin speech, Holder was stinging in his criticism of the previous administration. “Guantanamo has come to represent a time and an approach that we want to put behind us — a disregard for our centuries-long respect for the rule of law and a go-it-alone approach that alienated our allies, incited our adversaries and ultimately weakened our fight against terrorism,” he said.

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Holder’s decision to disclose the administration’s Guantanamo plans abroad is adding fuel to partisan battles in Washington over whether the detention facility should be closed at all, and whether the prisoners should be brought to the U.S. to be released or tried. “It’s ironic that the supposed ‘most transparent’ administration is providing information to foreign nations, while the American people are left in the dark,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. Smith, the top-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, blasted Holder for both the substance and the location of his remarks. “Releasing terrorists endangers American lives both here and abroad. The American people have a right to know how these decisions are being made. Yet this administration is sharing more information with foreign countries at overseas press conferences than with U.S. members of Congress elected to represent the American people,” he said. Senate Republican Whip John Kyl of Arizona said Holder’s speech shows that more needs to be said about how former Guantanamo detainees will be handled, and he predicted Republican resistance to Obama’s plans. “There are far too many questions the administration needs to answer before Congress can provide the requested $80 million to close this detention facility,” Kyl said in a written statement. In his speech Wednesday, Holder did not mention an announcement by a judge in Spain to pursue an investigation of former Bush administration officials over the authorization of harsh interrogation techniques on detained terrorism suspects. Asked about the matter at a morning meeting with reporters, Holder said he would not rule out cooperating with the Spanish magistrate, and said he would consider any requests from the court.