AUGUSTA — President Obama’s proposal to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility received a mixed response Tuesday from members of Maine’s congressional delegation.

Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1, both expressed support for closing the facility housing terrorist suspects, although King added it would be a mistake to close Guantanamo “without a well-defined and executable plan in place.”

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee and was a former chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said she was “open to considering a plan about how to close the detention facility,” but echoed King’s desire for specific details on how it would be done.

“If the president wants to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, at a minimum, he needs to articulate a specific and credible plan about how to do so,” Collins said in a statement. “Today, the president presented some options to consider, but that is not enough. He needs a detailed plan, including describing specifically how he would deal with the serious legal and constitutional questions regarding the detention of enemy combatants once they are brought to the United States.”

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-District 2, called Obama’s proposal a “dangerous and senseless” plan that could put American citizens at risk.

In unveiling his plans to close the Guantanamo prison, Obama was following up on a campaign pledge and fulfilling an obligation to present a plan to Congress. The plan calls for continuing the policy of transferring some of the 91 remaining inmates to other countries, and housing the rest in unnamed U.S. prisons.

King, an independent who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he is convinced that closing the detention facility “is in our national interests” based his conversations with military and intelligence officials.

“The facility serves as a recruitment and propaganda tool for terrorist organizations, and its continued operation complicates relationships with some allies and partners,” King said in a statement. “Furthermore, maintaining the facility comes at the exorbitant cost of nearly $3 million per detainee per year to American taxpayers.”

King did not endorse the president’s plan outright, however, instead saying he would review it for consistency with U.S. and international law.

Poliquin, a first-term Republican, accused Obama of putting the Democratic Party’s priorities ahead of Americans’ safety.

“The transfer of dangerous, radicalized terrorists to American soil threatens the safety of citizens across our country,” Poliquin said in a statement. “Not only is the president’s plan dangerous and senseless, but it is indisputably illegal. President Obama himself signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 (NDAA), which specifically restricts any transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison.”

But Pingree, the Maine delegation’s only Democrat, pointed out that U.S. prisons already safely house convicted terrorists. Pingree said closing Guantanamo is a “long overdue” step that will save money.

“There are already hundreds of terrorists being safely held in Supermax prisons around the United States,” Pingree said in a statement. “These facilities are perfectly capable of taking the prisoners from Guantanamo. But the practice of holding prisoners indefinitely without charging them or without a trial also has to come to an end. The American justice system and the American prison system can handle these individuals.”


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