Powell: Congress should wait for details on Gitmo plan before taking side

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Republicans who oppose President Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo Bay because it isn’t specific enough should ask for more details before taking a position, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday.

“The complaint seems to be that they don’t have a specific plan up there, and that’s a complaint we can deal with,” Powell said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” “Have the administration talk to members of Congress and put forward elements of a specific plan.”

Almost immediately after Obama released his plan Tuesday, Republicans panned it for not being specific enough, among other criticisms.

For example, detainees deemed too dangerous to be transferred abroad would be moved to a facility in the United States. But the proposal doesn’t specify one facility, instead noting that the administration has looked at 13 sites.

“I’ve been waiting seven and a half years for a plan in order for us to facilitate the closure of Guantanamo Bay,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday. “I’m still waiting.”

McCain was one of the few Republicans in Congress who had supported closing the facility.

Powell’s support, though, remains.

“As secretary of State, Guantanamo was a heavy load to carry as I went around the world talking about human rights, talking about how you treat prisoners, talking about how you can’t have indefinite detention or the use of torture to get things out of people,” said Powell, who served under President George W. Bush.

“And I always had pushback at me, ‘But look at what you were doing at Guantanamo.’ ”

Further, Powell said, the facility has been slowly shutting down as detainees are transferred to other countries. There are 91 detainees there now, down from a height of nearly 800.

Of the 91, 35 have been deemed eligible for transfer abroad.

“So we’re down to under 100 and we’re going to cut that in half over the next several months,” Powell said. “Do we really want to keep, do we really need to keep this place open for 50 remaining detainees who we could easily move to a secure facility in the United States?”

Still, Powell acknowledged the difficulty of getting support from people in the areas where detainees would be housed. Lawmakers from the states that Pentagon teams have visited for assessment have been among the most vocal opponents to Obama’s proposal.

“It is a political problem,” Powell said. “I know that nobody really wants to accept these folks, but there are some prison facilities in the United States — and we were looking at this years ago — who are anxious to get these folks into their unused prisoners or almost vacant prisons.”

Tags Guantanamo Bay detention camp John McCain

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