Panetta: If captured, bin Laden would be held at Guantánamo

The head of the CIA told senators on Wednesday that Osama bin Laden would be held at Guantánamo Bay prison if he were captured.

CIA Director Leon Panetta was asked by the ranking Republican on
the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.),
what would happen to the heads of al Qaeda — Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri — if they were captured.

{mosads}“The process would obviously involve — especially with the two
targets that you just described — we would probably move them quickly
into military jurisdiction at Bagram [air base in Afghanistan] for
questioning and then eventually move them, probably to Guantánamo,” said

Chambliss agreed with Panetta and said that while it might not be the
most politically viable decision, moving bin Laden or al-Zawahiri to
Guantánamo would be the best way to handle their capture from a security

“We haven’t moved anybody to Guantánamo in years now, and obviously
there has been a move toward closure of that facility, and I would tend
to agree with you that’s probably the best place for anybody to go
right now, the safest place from a national-security standpoint,” said

“Politically, it might not be popular … I
appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness about what you would

President Obama ordered the Guantánamo Bay prison closed in
2009 after the facility was criticized for violating prisoners’ human
rights. But the move toward closure came up against a torrent of
political opposition, as many Republicans argued that the Cuba-based
detention facility was the most secure and best-equipped place to house
suspected terrorists.

Many members balked at the idea of housing the detainees at prisons
in their districts. And in December, much to the disappointment of the
Department of Justice (DoJ), Congress prohibited the use of any funds to
transfer detainees from Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. The issue has
subsequently been moved to the backburner for the White House, although
in Obama’s recent budget proposal he included nearly $67 million to
reopen a closed Illinois prison — a move that could be the first step
toward relocating Guantánamo detainees.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper seemed less sure
on Wednesday that such “high-value targets” would find their way to
Guantánamo so easily if captured. Instead, he told the senators that
many of the U.S.’s intelligence and homeland security agencies would
have a say as to how they should proceed.

“If we were to capture either one of those two luminaries — if I can
use that term — I think there would probably be a matter of some
interagency discussions … and whether they would be tried or not,” he
said. “I’m sure if we did capture them that would be a subject of some

Clapper said there were about 172 detainees at Guantánamo, most of whom are from Yemen.

Tags Saxby Chambliss

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