WASHINGTON – Senior U.S. lawmakers said Monday they have reached a compromise deal that eases restrictions on sending Guantanamo detainees home or to third countries but bars their transfer to the United States.
The deal could set up a potential first step toward closing the controversial prison, a campaign pledge made by President Barack Obama back in 2008.
The bipartisan agreement reached by two senators and two House of Representatives members still requires passage by both chambers as part of a sweeping defense spending bill.
Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he hoped the bill he helped craft would pass this month, with the Guantanamo provisions intact.
The deal includes Senate language “easing restrictions on overseas transfers of Gitmo detainees but it retains the House prohibitions on transferring detainees to the United States,” Levin said. Easing restrictions could see about half the detainees eligible for transfer to their home countries or elsewhere, with the other half, including 9/11 suspects, remaining at Guantanamo.