Attorney General Says Administration will ‘Do its Best’ Not to Release Dangerous Prisoners After It Closes Gitmo

By Edwin Mora | May 14, 2009 | 8:58 PM EDT

Attorney General Eric Holder, right, is greeted on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 14,2009, by Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla. , left, as Holder arrived to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about current operations at the Justice Department. The committee's ranking Republican, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, walks past at center. (AP photo)

Washington ( - Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee that his department will “do its best” to make sure that Guantanamo Bay detainees who pose a threat to the United States are kept imprisoned after President Barack Obama’s order to close down Gitmo is carried out.

“If we have sufficient factual intelligence, factual proof, however you want to describe it, to believe that a person poses a danger to the United States, we will do all that we can to ensure that that person remains detained,” Holder said. 

Holder was responding to Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R-Va.) inquiry about whether a detainee or a group of detainees that Holder deems a threat to the U.S. would continue to be held based on a “totality of the evidence”--even if the evidence was not admissible in court.

Forbes repeatedly made the same inquiry and Holder reiterated his answer that no one that posed a threat would be released in the U.S. But the attorney general did not specify that any detainee would remain under custody.

On Jan. 22, one day after his inauguration, President Obama signed an executive order to shut down the detention facility at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within one year. Gitmo, as it is often called, has been used to house suspected and confirmed terrorists captured overseas, but no concrete decision has been made as to where its 241 prisoners are going to end up. 

The president justified closing down the facility saying it would "restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism."
When asked about the issue after President Obama signed the order, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. was “developing options”--including the possibility of returning some to other countries.

Gates added, "We have identified a number of possible prisons here in the United States" that could house the detainees.”

Attorney General Holder, meanwhile, testified Thursday that a decision has not been reached as to what is going to happen to those imprisoned at Gitmo.
“No final decision has been made with regards to what’s going to happen to those 241 people who are in Guantanamo Bay,” said the attorney general.
Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), meanwhile, asked Holder whether taxpayers' money would be used to provide assistance to those detainees that are released within U.S. soil, as National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair had suggested in March at a news conference.
“No final decision has been as to where they would go, how they would be treated, so that is not an issue that we have yet confirmed,” Holder told the congressman. “We’re still in the process of trying to make determinations about who will be prosecuted, who will be eligible for transfer or release.”
House Democrats, meanwhile, have resisted Obama’s request of $80 billion to begin shutting down Gitmo’s detention center. The lawmakers unveiled a $94.4 billion war-funding bill on May 4, but no money was allotted for shutting down the Gitmo camp.
The president’s funding request is part of a larger bill that would provide additional funding for the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Suspected al-Qaeda terrorists aren’t the only ones being detained at Gitmo. Holder was asked about 17 Chinese Muslim detainees at Guantanamo known as Uighurs (WEE-gurs).
“In terms of release [of Uighurs], we don’t have a choice, they have to be released,” said Holder during the testimony. “Unless (you’re asking) us to defy an order from the United States court.” 

The Uighurs were cleared of suspected terrorism, but have been held at Gitmo because they cannot be returned to China.