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After visit, Forbes says he's convinced Gitmo shouldn't close
U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, just back from a fact-finding trip to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says the visit reinforced his opposition to closing the facility and moving the detainees held there to the United States.
President Barack Obama has pledged to close the prison by January, pleasing human rights advocates who said reports of inhumane treatment there stained the nation’s reputation. But the White House said Monday that a task force studying how to do that has been given another six months to deliver its recommendations.
That delay poses a “huge difficulty” for prosecutors building cases against detainees suspected of terrorist activity, Forbes said Tuesday.
Forbes, a Republican from Chesapeake, visited Guantanamo with three other members of Congress.
He said the chief prosecutor there told them that because of the delay, he will be forced to seek a continuance of the cases against the suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“If the judge doesn’t allow the continuance, and it’s far from certain that they will, he may have to drop the charges,” Forbes said.
Moreover, he said, the military already has a state-of-the-art secure facility at Guantanamo for trying the detainees. There is nothing like it in the United States, he said, and building a comparable facility could cost up to $100 million.
The Guantanamo prison now houses about 240 detainees. The Bush administration acknowledged that some were subjected to harsh techniques such as waterboarding, which simulates drowning.
Now, however, the detainees are well treated, Forbes said.
“They have better health care than most of our senior citizens have here in the United States,” he said. There is a fully equipped hospital, he added, and detainees on hunger strikes can even choose what flavor of Ensure they will be given when they are force-fed. Butter pecan is the top choice, he said.
If the detainees are moved to the United States, Forbes said, guards will have to be specially trained to handle them.
“These guys have a type of mind control and controlling nature on the other prisoners that we haven’t seen here in the United States,” he said.
Forbes has introduced legislation to prohibit the use of federal funds to transfer any of the detainees to Virginia. The administration has not proposed doing so.
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