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Feinstein Releases GAO Report on U.S. Alternatives to Guantanamo Bay Prison

Study finds that existing U.S. facilities could hold remaining 166 detainees

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today released a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that evaluates the suitability and availability of prison facilities inside the United States capable of safely and securely receiving the remaining 166 detainees currently in custody at Guantanamo Bay.

“This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security,” Feinstein said. “The GAO report makes clear that numerous prisons exist inside the United States—operated by both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice—capable of holding the 166 detainees who remain at Guantanamo in an environment that meets the security requirements.”

Feinstein requested the report “Guantánamo Bay Detainees: Facilities and Factors for Consideration If Detainees Were Brought to the United States” in 2008.

“To say that high-risk detainees cannot be held securely in a maximum security prison is just plain wrong,” Feinstein added. “The United States already holds 373 individuals convicted of terrorism in 98 facilities across the country. As far as I know, there hasn’t been a single security problem reported in any of these cases. This fact outweighs not only the high cost of maintaining Guantanamo—which costs more than $114 million a year—but also provides the same degree of security without the criticism of operating a military prison in an isolated location.”

Key findings of the GAO report:

  • Although GAO specifically states its review “did not include an evaluation of whether specific U.S. facilities would be suitable for holding Guantanamo Bay detainees” (p. 2), the report makes clear that there are prisons in the United States that can hold the 166 Guantanamo detainees safely and securely under the security conditions that exist at Guantanamo.
  • The Department of Defense and the Department of Justice both operate detention facilities comparable to Guantanamo Bay and currently hold convicted terrorists and other felons connected to terrorism.
  • The report notes that existing facilities would need to be modified and current inmates may need to be relocated.
  • If Congress agrees to allow Guantanamo detainees to be transferred to prisons in the United States, the Department of Defense in particular has facilities available to hold them once adjustments are made and security is taken into account.
  • There are six Defense Department facilities where Guantanamo Bay detainees could be held in the United States that are currently at a combined 48 percent capacity:

  • As of August 2012, Bureau of Prisons and the Marshals Service had custody of at least 377 inmates charged with or convicted of crimes related to terrorism (or a connection to terrorism), according to the GAO. The Bureau of Prisons holds 373 of these terrorists in 98 different facilities across the United States, according to the report (p. 35).


  • There are 98 Justice Department facilities where Guantanamo detainees could be held in the United States: