Obama to discuss plan for closing Guantanamo Bay prison

The Guantanamo facility houses terror suspects, and lawmakers don't want them in the U.S.
President Obama will address the future of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Thursday morning in a speech at Georgetown University.

In a speech that is being billed as a major address, Obama is also slated to discuss issues of state secrets, transparency and protecting national security, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the most outspoken critics of Obama’s policies, is scheduled to give an opposing argument Thursday morning. Cheney has charged that Obama’s national security decisions have left the United States more vulnerable to attack. Obama’s address is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET at Georgetown University. Cheney will speak before the conservative American Enterprise Institute at 10:45 a.m. Obama is hoping to rally support behind his national security measures after angering some with his decision to resume the Bush administration practice of military tribunals and by reversing course on his decision to release photos of alleged inmate abuse at Guantanamo.

Fact Box These states have introduced legislation this year calling for a ban on Guantanamo Bay detainees on their soil: Alabama California IndianaKansas Louisiana Missouri New MexicoOklahoma Pennsylvania South Carolina Tennessee Texas (Information courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislatures)

On Wednesday, Obama was dealt another blow when the U.S. Senate passed a measure that would prevent detainees at Guantanamo Bay from being transferred to the United States for now. The measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in a 90-6 vote. A similar amendment has already passed the House. It was attached to a supplemental war funding bill. Following in the steps of House Democrats, Senate Democrats rejected on Tuesday the administration’s request for $80 million to close the Guantanamo facility. They instead asked that President Obama first submit a plan spelling out what the administration will do with the prisoners when it closes the prison. Obama, in one of his first official duties as president, announced that he would close the prison by January 22, 2010. Congressional Democrats, however, are now attempting to avoid an onslaught of criticism from Republicans, who argue it would be reckless to shutter the prison before deciding where to transfer the detainees. FBI Director Robert Mueller told members of Congress earlier Wednesday that he is concerned about the potential dangers that may result from the release of detainees in the United States. In response to a question from Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Mueller said he is concerned about the potential for fundraising to support terrorist groups and the radicalization of others, as well as the potential for attacks within the country.

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Mueller also said that while he is not concerned about dangerous terrorists escaping from maximum security federal prisons, he is concerned about the potential of activities being directed from within prison walls, and he cited such actions by dangerous gang members. Attorney General Eric Holder, the president’s point man overseeing the Guantanamo plan, sought to downplay the FBI director’s concerns and the Senate vote to bar funds. “The concerns that have been expressed by the director and concerns expressed by other people will all be taken into account in formulating the plan that we will ultimately use,” Holder told reporters late Wednesday. “We’re not going to do anything that’s going to put the American people at risk,” he said. The attorney general continued to express confidence that the Guantanamo Bay prison camp will be permanently closed by Obama’s deadline. “We will have conversations with Congress, and I’m confident that as a result of those conversations, the necessary funds will come our way,” Holder said. At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs echoed Holder’s promise. “The president understands that his most important job is to keep the American people safe and that he is not going to make any decision or any judgment that imperils the safety of the American people.”