Scott Beauchamp at The Atlantic:
Closing Guantanamo should be an issue that finds easy bipartisan agreement. There’s something about the existence of the prison to offend everyone. For the left, there are the human-rights concerns. For the right, wasteful, expensive big-government overreach. And surely everyone would agree that a program that strengthens the enemy is bad for national defense. Yet, when the Senate passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act that would end funding for any attempts to transport Guantanamo prisoners to U.S. soil, the vote reflected a bipartisan consensus to keep the prison open, passing 91 to three. The House rallied around the bill in a similarly cohesive fashion, passing it 370 to 58.
The simple explanation for members of Congress rallying to keep the prison open is public approval. Support for closing the prison has been steadily falling since its 2009 high of 51 percent, dropping to 39 percent in 2010 and 27 percent last year. To judge from the public statements of people defending Guantanamo, the explanation is plain: fear. In 2009, the Republican Senator John Thune argued, “The American people don’t want these detainees held at military bases, or federal prisons, or in their backyard, either.” More recently, when it was announced earlier in the year that potential transfer sites for Guantanamo prisoners included locations in Colorado, South Carolina, and Kansas, Cory Gardner, a Republican senator from Colorado, signed a letter, along with 40 sheriffs, claiming that it is “dangerously naïve not to recognize that a civilian prison with an untold number of enemy combatant inmates in our state, would provide a very tempting target for anyone wishing to either free these detainees or simply wishing to make a political statement.”