Government officials said yesterday that there is no
immediate prospect of transferring hundreds of accused
terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay to military prisons
near San Diego or elsewhere in the United States.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, who opposes closing the
U.S. base in Cuba, raised the issue Thursday when he
released a list of 17 military prisons – including brigs
at the Marines' Camp Pendleton and Miramar air station –
that he said House Democrats identified as “potential
relocation points for terror suspects.”
Hunter said “thousands of American civilians” could
become endangered if detainees who were transferred to the
prisons escaped or shared their skills with other inmates,
or if the prisons became terrorist targets.
Congressional aides and others said as far as they
know, there are no plans to close Guantanamo or transfer
its 385 prisoners to domestic facilities.
President Bush has expressed a willingness to close
Guantanamo, which has become a lightning rod for criticism
of the United States. But on Thursday, Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, who also favors closing it, expressed doubts
that the military prison system “provides the capacity to
keep” its detainees incarcerated on a long-term basis.
Officials at Camp Pendleton said they have no
indication the brig is being considered to hold
terrorists, which they said would require significant
modification of the facility, reorganization, training and
“Headquarters Marine Corps has not officially tasked
the Camp Pendleton brig, nor has anyone on this
installation been told about any possible considerations
relating to Guantanamo Bay detainees,” said 2nd Lt. Curtis
Williamson, a Camp Pendleton spokesman.
No contingency plans have been made for the transfer of
prisoners if Guantanamo closes, Pentagon officials said
“While some have called for the closure of Guantanamo,
none (has) put forth a viable option to handle these
dangerous men and prevent their return to terrorism,” said
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler, a Pentagon spokesman.
Congressional aides said the debate over Guantanamo has
“It's too early to know what's going to happen,” said
Loren Dealy, spokeswoman for House Armed Services
Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo. Skelton has not
taken a position on closing the Guantanamo facility.
Josh Holly, a spokesman for Hunter, said it's
significant that the House Armed Services Committee was
presented with a list of military prisons that could be
used to hold detainees during the panel's first hearing on
closing Guantanamo on Thursday.
“This is the first time we have seen a list that has
been produced,” Holly said.
According to an internal committee memo, the chart of
prisons is based on 2003 figures put together for the Base
Closure and Realignment Commission. The chart shows the 17
prisons having the capacity to hold 424 more prisoners
than the 2,141 who were incarcerated at that time.