"This provision goes well beyond existing law and would unwisely restrict the ability of the executive branch to prosecute alleged terrorists in federal courts or military commissions in the United States as well as its ability to incarcerate those convicted in such tribunals," Holder wrote in a letter to Reid and McConnell. It "would undermine my ability as attorney general to prosecute cases in Article III courts, thereby taking away one of our most potent weapons in the fight against terrorism."
It's not unusual for lawmakers to assert their power over the executive branch in these kinds of bills. But the battle over Guantanamo Bay is another example of the fight Obama is getting from his own party.
"The current legislative climate makes it very very difficult for the president to bring detainees into the United States, whether for detention or criminal prosecution, and almost impossible to close Guantanamo altogether," Columbia's Waxman said. "Right now, the Congressional climate is very unfriendly towards that notion."
The detainee center at Guantanamo Bay currently houses 170 prisoners, of which 30 were due to face trial in criminal courts or before military commissions. Since 2002, about 600 have been transferred to other countries.
Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried on U.S. soil in a civilian court, was acquitted in New York last month on all 285 charges except one. Ghailani was accused of conspiring in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.