Holder to Congress: Allow Gitmo detainee transfers

Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderHolder redistricting group backs lawsuits for 3 additional majority-black congressional districts Liberal groups launches ads against prospective Trump Supreme Court nominees Ready for somebody? Dems lack heir apparent this time MORE is again pressing Congress to grant the White House authority to transfer terror detainees from the controversial military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. 

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLive coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report Student rips DeVos at school safety commission for failure to take on guns DeVos: Safety commission won’t focus on role of guns in school violence MORE (D-Vt.) and ranking member Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyJustice IG says report doesn’t assess ‘credibility’ of Russian probe DOJ watchdog probing Comey's memos, will release another report Grassley demands details on Comey's use of personal email MORE (R-Iowa), Holder railed against GOP-led efforts restricting the White House from transferring detainees out of Guantánamo. 

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Congressional actions to block those transfers "weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and strengthening our enemies," Holder said in the letter. 

"If we are to ... advance our foreign policy objectives, the [White House] must have the ability to transfer detainees when doing so serves our national interests," he added. 

Holder's letter comes as Senate Republicans are digging in for a legislative fight on detainee transfers from Cuba, as part of the Pentagon's fiscal 2014 defense spending bill. 

In May, President Obama lifted the moratorium on the transfer of Yemeni detainees being housed at Guantánamo back to their home country. 

Only two detainees have been transferred from Guantánamo since then, with another 84 detainees cleared for transfer.

But Sen. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ga.) and Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteErnst, Fischer to square off for leadership post The Hill's Morning Report: Koch Network re-evaluating midterm strategy amid frustrations with GOP Audit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars MORE (R-N.H.) are spearheading the GOP push to fold in transfer restrictions to Yemen and elsewhere into the defense authorization legislation, expected to hit the Senate floor next week. 

Grassley, along with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump digs in amid uproar on zero tolerance policy Senate passes 6B defense bill Justice IG says report doesn’t assess ‘credibility’ of Russian probe MORE (R-S.C.), have also expressed their support for keeping high-value terrorists suspects incarcerated at the U.S. base in Cuba. 

Those efforts have put congressional Republicans on a collision course with Obama, who revamped his efforts to shutter the Guantánamo detention center earlier this year. 

"I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantánamo is not necessary to keep America safe," the president told reporters back in April. 

"It is expensive. It is inefficient. ... It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts," the president added. "It is a recruitment tool for extremists [and] it needs to be closed," the president added. 

Since then, the White House has opted to move recently captured terrorism suspects, such as captured al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi, into the federal court system, rather than moving them to Cuba. 

In October, Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal Should Mike Pompeo be confirmed? Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security MORE named Paul Lewis, a congressional lawyer, as special envoy for closing Guantánamo. 

Lewis joined Clifford Sloan, who was named as the State Department’s Guantánamo envoy in June.

Since its creation in early 2000, the military prison in Guantánamo has housed a number of top-tier terrorist suspects captured by U.S. and allied forces. 

9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other 9/11 co-conspirators remain housed at the facility, awaiting trial before a U.S. military tribunal. 

Military prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins is targeting 2015 for a tentative start date for the trial. However, defense teams for the 9/11 accused have said the pre-trial classification fights will push the trial date back to 2016.