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Inouye measure to keep Guantanamo open wins OK


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POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2009

WASHINGTON » In a rare, bipartisan defeat for President Barack Obama, the Senate voted overwhelmingly yesterday to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open for the foreseeable future and forbid the transfer of any detainees to facilities in the United States.

Democrats lined up with Republicans in the 90-6 vote that came on the heels of a similar move a week ago in the House, underscoring widespread apprehension among Obama's congressional allies about voters' strong feelings about bringing detainees to the U.S. from the prison in Cuba.

The president readied a speech for this morning on the U.S. fight against terrorism, at a time when liberals have chafed at some of his decisions.

In spite of lawmakers' concerns, the Obama administration plans to send a top al-Qaida suspect held at Guantanamo Bay to New York to stand trial for the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, an administration official said yesterday. The suspect, Ahmed Ghailani, would be the first Guantanamo detainee brought to the U.S. and the first to face trial in a civilian criminal court.

Obama has vowed to close the prison by next January, and the Senate's vote was not the final word on the matter. It will be next month at the earliest before Congress completes work on the legislation, giving the White House time to pursue a compromise that would allow the president to fulfill his pledge.

In fact, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye said yesterday the Senate vote to approve his Guantanamo amendment wasn't a referendum on closing the prison.

Inouye said in a news release issued in Washington that the 90-6 vote should serve as “;a reality check,”; because the administration has not yet forwarded a coherent plan for closing the prison.

The island Democrat says he wants to make it clear that the Guantanamo prison needs to be closed.

He called it “;a symbol of the wrongdoings which have occurred.”;