The US Senate and the House of Representatives [official websites] on Wednesday gave final approval to a defense spending bill [HR 3082 materials] that includes a provision preventing Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees from being transferred to the US for trial. The legislation would block Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and the other accused 9/11 conspirators from being tried in a US civilian court. The bill was approved by the House [JURIST report] last week, prompting US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] to send a letter [text, PDF] to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them not to include the provision in the spending bill. If signed into law, the ban will remain in place until September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Also this week, reports have indicated that the Obama administration is considering implementing a periodic review process for detainees being held indefinitely at Guantanamo.
In the first civilian trial of an ex-Guantanamo detainee, a federal jury convicted [JURIST report] Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive] last month on only one of 285 counts of conspiracy, murder and attempted murder for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of US embassies [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Tanzania and Kenya. While the Obama administration viewed the conviction and 20-year minimum sentence as a victory, opponents have cited the acquittals as evidence that civilian courts are inadequate venues for trying terror suspects. Several scholars have nevertheless maintained that federal courts are capable of serving justice [JURIST op-ed; JURIST op-ed]. Upon taking office, President Barack Obama pledged to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST report] by January 2010, but he has been met with strong congressional opposition to transferring detainees to US soil