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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guantanamo Detention Center: Legislative Activity in the 111th Congress

Michael John Garcia
Legislative Attorney

The detention of alleged enemy belligerents at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, together with proposals to transfer some such individuals to the United States for prosecution or continued detention, has been a subject of considerable interest for Congress. Several authorization and appropriations measures enacted during the 111th Congress addressed the disposition and treatment of Guantanamo detainees. This report analyzes legislation enacted in the 111th Congress concerning persons held at the Guantanamo detention facility.

Nine laws that were enacted during the 111
th Congress contained provisions directly relating to Guantanamo detainees: the 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-32); the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-83); the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 111-84); the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-88); the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117); the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-118); the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-212); the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY2010 (P.L. 111-259); and the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for FY2011 (2011 NDAA, P.L. 111-383). Many of these measures imposed conditions on the use of appropriated funds to transfer or release Guantanamo detainees into the United States. The fourth Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 111-322), has effectively extended the restrictions imposed by FY2010 appropriation enactments through March 4, 2011.

Several appropriations measures enacted in the 111
th Congress restricted appropriated funds from being used to transfer or release Guantanamo detainees into the United States; they permitted transfers for purposes of criminal prosecution or detention during legal proceedings, contingent upon certain reporting requirements being fulfilled. However, the 2011 NDAA (P.L. 111-383), which was signed into law on January 7, 2011, prohibits any funds it authorizes to be appropriated to the Department of Defense (DOD) from being used to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States for any purpose, and also bars such funds from being used to assist in the transfer of such persons. Because Guantanamo detainees are presently in military custody, the act could be interpreted as effectively barring the transfer of any Guantanamo detainee into the United States, despite language in authorizing appropriations measures for other federal agencies that permits the use of funds to transfer detainees into the country for criminal prosecution. In addition to these restrictions, the 2011 NDAA bars authorized funds from being used to construct facilities in the United States to house transferred Guantanamo detainees, and also imposes restrictions on the transfer of detainees to certain foreign countries in order to deter the return of transferred detainees to hostilities. Upon signing the act into law, President Obama issued a statement describing his opposition to the legislation’s restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees, and claimed that his Administration will work with Congress to seek to repeal or mitigate the effect of these restrictions. He did not allege that these provisions are an unconstitutional infringement on executive discretion, or state that the provisions would not be enforced.

Legislation enacted in the 111
th Congress also addressed issues related to the treatment and disposition of Guantanamo detainees. For example, Title XVIII of the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act establishes new procedures for military commissions. Section 552 of the FY2010 Department of Homeland Security Act requires that former Guantanamo detainees be included on the “No Fly List” in most circumstances and restricts their access to immigration benefits.

Date of Report: January 13, 2011
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: R40754
Price: $29.95

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