Senator Richard Shelby, Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS), today cosponsored an amendment by Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye to the Fiscal Year 2009 Supplemental for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Pandemic Flu. The amendment would strike $80 million provided in the legislation to fund the implementation of the Executive Orders related to the closure of the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
As Ranking Member of the CJS Subcommittee, Shelby originally intended to offer an amendment during the Appropriations Committee’s mark up of the legislation on May 14, 2009 to strike $30 million included in the Department of Justice (DoJ) portion of the legislation to implement Guantanamo Bay Detainee Review, Detention, and Interrogation Executive Orders, but deferred until the bill was brought to the floor at the request of Appropriations Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran. Shelby’s intent to offer the amendment stemmed from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s failure to adequately answer questions from Shelby during a May 7, 2009 CJS hearing regarding Holder’s role in the approval of renditions in the course of his service as Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton Administration. Holder also failed to directly answer whether the government had the legal authority to admit into the U.S. someone who had received terrorist training. The DoJ Executive Orders, which could lead to investigations and prosecutions of U.S. officials involved in developing and carrying out the CIA’s interrogation program established after September 11, 2001, would be overseen by Holder but would not include a review of renditions carried out during his previous tenure at the Justice Department.
Inouye’s amendment follows a letter Shelby sent Holder on May 18, 2009 requesting information regarding Holder’s role in the approval of renditions during the Clinton Administration, the potential criminal investigations of U.S. officials involved in developing and carrying out the CIA’s interrogation program during the Bush Administration, and the disposition of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
“I believe that funding the Department of Justice’s mission in the President’s Executive Orders is just the beginning of efforts to investigate U.S. officials who interrogated terrorists that killed or attempted to kill American citizens,” said Shelby on the Senate floor. “Renditions and interrogations were carried out under Attorney General Holder’s watch when he was Deputy Attorney General. I have serious concerns that the Attorney General could eventually be leading investigations and prosecutions against U.S. officials who carried out the very same actions he approved during his time as Deputy Attorney General. Yet, the Executive Orders fail to include any investigation of his role in approving renditions of detainees and terrorists that occurred during his previous tenure at the Justice Department.”
Below is the full text of Shelby’s floor speech.
“Mr. President, I rise today to support and thank Chairman Inouye for his amendment to strike the Guantanamo Bay funding in this Supplemental.
“Last week I raised this issue in the Appropriations Committee mark-up with the intent to strike the funding for the Department of Justice. At the behest of Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran, I did not to offer the amendment which I intended to offer today.
“This Supplemental, as reported out of the Appropriations Committee, fulfilled the Department of Justice’s request for $30 million to fund the President’s reckless campaign promise to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and determine the fate of the 241 terrorists being held there.
“I also believe that the funding for the Department of Justice to carry out the President’s Executive Orders is just the beginning of efforts to begin the investigation of U.S. officials who interrogated terrorists that killed or attempted to kill American citizens.
“In a Department of Justice hearing before the Appropriations Committee on May 7th, I asked the Attorney General if he knew about or sanctioned any of the renditions that occurred when he served as Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton Administration. He said he did, but could not provide specifics and would get back to the Committee with a response.
“Yesterday I sent a letter to the Attorney General following up on many of the unanswered questions left after the hearing. I ask unanimous consent that the letter be printed at this point in the Record.
“Renditions and interrogations were carried out under Attorney General Holder’s watch when he was Deputy Attorney General. I have serious concerns that the Attorney General could eventually be leading investigations and prosecutions against U.S. officials who carried out the very same actions he approved during his time as Deputy Attorney General. Yet, the Executive Orders fail to include any investigation of his role in approving renditions of detainees and terrorists that occurred during his previous tenure at the Justice Department.
“Mr. President, the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center occurred on February 26, 1993. We later saw the bombings of the U.S.S. Cole, the U.S. Embassies in Africa, and Khobar Towers take place before the second attack on the World Trade Center.
“Many of the terrorists who committed these acts were trained in the very same camps as the terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay. When I asked the Attorney General if the government had the legal authority to admit someone who had received terrorist training into the United States, he would not answer the question directly. He indicated that he would not release anyone who he thought was a terrorist into the United States.
“All of the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay are terrorists -- does anyone but the Administration and Attorney General really believe they are not terrorists?
“Mr. President, it is misguided to close a facility housing terrorists when there is no plan. All of the prisoners housed at Guantanamo are terrorists. Terrorists attacked our nation and killed our citizens and pose a threat to our national security.
“We should not let this Attorney General, or anyone else, brand these terrorists as victims worthy of living in the U.S. Nor should we follow the plans of the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, who suggested the terrorists be provided with taxpayer funded subsidies to establish a new life in America.
“Until we are clear about Attorney General Holder’s role in renditions and interrogations prior to 9-11, and what this Administration is proposing to do with these terrorists once Guantanamo is closed, it is premature to provide this funding.
“Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.”