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U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., also visited the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Friday. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s office left Tillis’ name off of the list of attending senators released Thursday.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is leading a group of Republican freshmen senators on a tour of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba today.

Cotton of Arkansas and Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and James Lankford of Oklahoma are expected to tour the facility, view how it operates and hold several meetings, Cotton spokesman Caroline Rabbitt said Thursday evening.

"He just feels like it's an important counterterrorism tool and wants to see it himself firsthand," Rabbitt said.

The group is to return to the United States this evening, she said.

The detention facility in Cuba opened in 2002 and currently houses 122 inmates. Some of the men detained there have never been charged with a crime nor received a trial.

Since his first presidential campaign, President Barack Obama has called for the facility to be closed. He reiterated his position during his State of the Union speech in January.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month, Cotton challenged the Obama administration's assertion that keeping the facility open weakens national security because it is used by extremists to recruit new fighters.

Cotton, a former Army captain who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the president was merely seeking a pretext to help him close the prison and fulfill a campaign promise.

"In my opinion, the only problem with Guantanamo Bay is there are too many empty beds and cells there right now," Cotton said at the time. "We should be sending more terrorists there for further interrogation to keep this country safe. As far as I'm concerned, every last one of them can rot in hell. But as long as they can't do that, they can rot in Guantanamo Bay."

The committee is considering legislation that would effectively ban the president from transferring Guantanamo inmates to foreign countries for the next two years. Of the 122 inmates, 54 are currently eligible for transfer, 10 are being prosecuted or have been sentenced, and the cases of the other 58 are being reviewed.

Cotton is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Airland, which oversees equipment for the Air Force and Army, as well as Navy and Marine Corps tactical aviation programs. It also has jurisdiction over equipment for the National Guard and Reserve.

Metro on 03/13/2015

Print Headline: Cotton, 3 other senators touring Cuba base

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