Bill leaves status of Baltimore County man, other Guantanamo detainees unchanged

Congressional negotiators stripped a provision from an annual bill that would have opened up a way for a Baltimore County man who has spent more than a decade at Guantanamo Bay to leave the military prison, officials said Tuesday.

A senior aide to the House Armed Services Committee said the bill will not make any changes to the law on the military prison where 60 terror suspects are being held. The aide called the bill's approach to the prison "status quo."

Among the detainees is Majid Khan, who graduated from Owings Mills High School before heading to Pakistan and linking up with senior al-Qaida leaders. He has pleaded guilty before a military commission to murder, spying and conspiracy for his plotting and role in a deadly hotel bombing in Indonesia.

Aides provided a briefing on the bill, which is expected to be introduced Wednesday, on the condition that they not be named. Khan's lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Time is running out for President Barack Obama to fulfill a pledge to close the prison. He has been stymied by opposition in Congress and by knotty cases like Khan's.

Khan, who was tortured by CIA interrogators before being sent to Guantanamo, recently agreed to spend several more years cooperating with American investigators before receiving his sentence, despite pleading guilty in 2012. There is no guarantee that he would be released from Guantanamo after serving any sentence that a judge there imposed.

The Senate passed a version of the defense bill earlier this year including a provision that detainees at Guantanamo could plead guilty before a civilian court and serve their sentence in a prison overseas. The idea would have sidestepped the need to bring any detainees to the United States as part of the process of closing Guantanamo, a move congressional leaders oppose.

But the provision did not survive the negotiations between the House and Senate to make it into the final bill, which is expected to be passed next week.

The future of the inmates at Guantanamo is unclear following the election of Donald Trump. The President-elect said on the campaign trail that he favored keeping the prison open and that "we're going to load it up with some bad dudes."

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