Senate bill would preserve anti-terror prison

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:21am EST

In this photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, a Guantanamo detainee runs inside an exercise area at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base April 27, 2010. REUTERS/Michelle Shephard/Pool

In this photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, a Guantanamo detainee runs inside an exercise area at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base April 27, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Michelle Shephard/Pool

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's already stalled bid to close the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be blocked under legislation introduced on Thursday in the Senate.

Offered by six senators -- five Republicans and former Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman -- the measure would prohibit funding alternatives to the facility.

"Terrorists should be detained at Guantanamo Bay, and tried according to the laws of military justice," Senator Scott Brown, flanked by colleagues, told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Introduction of the bill came three days after Obama lifted a two-year freeze on new military trials at Guantanamo Bay and suggested that Congress was hurting national security by blocking attempts to move some trials to U.S. civilian courts.

Administration officials said Obama still wants to close the prison, which they have called a recruiting tool for anti-American militants, but gave no time frame.

Obama has failed to overcome objections by Republicans and a number of fellow Democrats to transferring some detainees to U.S. prisons and trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks, and others in federal courts.

Sponsors of the Senate legislation noted in a joint statement that "the American people and a bipartisan majority of Congress have rejected civilian trials in the United States for those directly responsible" for the attacks.

In addition to protecting the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the legislation seeks to provide greater clarity in the often uncertain treatment and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

For example, it would restrict transfer of prisoners to foreign countries and require that suspected terrorists be held by the military unless the U.S. defense secretary certifies it would be in a national security interest to put them in civilian custody.

Lieberman said similar legislation has been offered in the Republican-led House and he expects the Democratic-led Senate to pass it with bipartisan support.

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; editing by John Whitesides)

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