Peoria Journal Star

July 11, 2006

Durbin visits Guantanamo Bay prison


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Monday visited the prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for the first time, about one year after his controversial criticism of American interrogators' treatment of prisoners from Iraq and Afghanistan at the facility.

Durbin, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is expected to participate in a committee hearing today on how to prosecute detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

He traveled with Sen. George Allen, R-Va., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is running for re-election this year and who is a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2008.

They were scheduled to visit four or five detention facilities at Guantanamo, be briefed by commanders and eat lunch with Illinois and Virginia soldiers.

They left early Monday from Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland.

Since 2001, the naval base in a U.S.-controlled portion of Cuba has contained a detainment camp for suspected terrorists. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President Bush's plan to try detainees before military tribunals violates U.S. and international laws. The Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as the House and Senate Armed Services committees, have scheduled hearings to consider legislation to set guidelines for trying the detainees.

Bush has been under pressure from European leaders and human rights activists to close the Guantanamo facility, where three detainees recently committed suicide.

Last year, Durbin, the Senate's second-highest ranking Democrat, was widely criticized for comparing U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo to Nazis. He made the remark on the Senate floor after quoting from an FBI agent's memo about detainees being chained to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures. He later made an emotional apology on the Senate floor.