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Pentagon chief says military looking for U.S. site to send Gitmo detainees

By Doug G. Ware
Pentagon chief says military looking for U.S. site to send Gitmo detainees
The Pentagon on Thursday acknowledged plans to find an alternate U.S. prison to house detainees at the Guantanamo Navy complex in Cuba, which would be the next step in fulfilling President Barack Obama's promise to close the facility when he first took office in 2009. Photo: UPI / Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 20 (UPI) -- The Department of Defense on Thursday acknowledged plans to send detainees at the Navy's prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to another correctional facility the United States -- the next step in President Barack Obama's promise six years ago to shutter the notorious complex.

It's a promise Obama made immediately upon taking office in 2009, but for years stalemates in Congress have made that plan a very difficult one to pull off.

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Thursday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Pentagon is looking for prison facilities across the United States that could receive and house a few hundred detainees from Cuba.

The top two options, Carter said, are the Army prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and a Navy facility in South Carolina.

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Also, Carter added, the military is sending assessment teams across the country to size up other possible replacements.

The Guantanamo prison has been dogged by controversy for a decade since former President George W. Bush began sending suspected terrorists there following 9/11. In particular, his administration received heat for holding the prisoners without charges and using questionable interrogation tactics to try and extract information from them.

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Earlier this summer, the American Psychological Association released an independent review that found the Bush administration sought assistance from psychologists in conducting interrogations. Such participation drew stern criticism from mental health professionals worldwide and the APA subsequently took steps to ban any of its members from aiding the U.S. government in such endeavors going forward.

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The Pentagon's evaluation team has already visited Ft. Leavenworth and will visit the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig shortly, officials said.

"We are going to work through these cost assessments and put the finishing touches on it," Defense spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.

"I see it exactly as the president does," Carter said of the plan to close Guantanamo.

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There are still hundreds of detainees at the Cuba prison -- some of whom are eligible to be deported to their native countries. The others, who are believed to be too dangerous to release, will continue to be held.

It will take the Pentagon some time to make a final decision and start moving prisoners, but Thursday South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed concern about the detainees possibly being transferred to her state.

"It is extremely concerning that we are now getting word that they are looking at us and one other state to move terrorists from Guantanamo Bay," she said. "Let's be very, very clear: This is a violation of federal law."

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