Scene: the Hart Senate Office Building. A congressional hearing in early 2010. An OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL prepares to testify before a panel of SENATORS.

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Mr. Chairman, distinguished ranking member, thank you for holding this important hearing. As you’re aware, it’s been a priority of this administration since its first week in office to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. We are all familiar with the reasons why it ought to be shuttered: its international notoriety has proven to be harmful to our alliances, and, as our generals have stated repeatedly, it’s a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda. After extensive review, we believe we have a solution, albeit one we would have like to have found a few months earlier. It’s the Thomson Correction Facility in Illinois. In that ultra-secure prison, we believe we can safely house the remaining Guantanamo detainees — both those who we will try before military commissions held on-site, and the cohort of about 50 detainees we believe we can neither responsibly release nor charge with any crime.

And it’s Thomson that brings me before this panel. As you’re aware, we require approximately $150 million from you to purchase Thomson from the state of Illinois. We’ve drawn up the appropriation, and we ask for your support for its swift passage. We have the opportunity to remove the stain of Guantanamo and move forward in a responsible manner. Thank you. If I can submit my full opening statement for the record, I’ll be happy to take your questions.

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

Without objection, so ordered. Sir, I share your desire to close Guantanamo Bay. I opposed the lawlessness shown by the Bush administration in maintaining the facility as a venue for indefinite detention. And this committee has done extensive staff investigations into the abuses there that have shocked us all. I commend the administration for its determination to close the facility.

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

But here’s what I don’t get. Part of your stated plan to shut Guantanamo down involves continuing to detain about 50 of its inmates indefinitely at Thomson?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Yes, Mr. Chairman. We convened an interagency task force all the way back in the first week of the administration to review, extensively, all the existing evidence gathered during the previous administration about the then-approximately 230 detainees at Guantanamo. The task force worked tirelessly, and recommended the vast majority of them for release, repatriation or civilian trial. What remains is about 40 or so whom we will try in military commissions, and the –

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

Don’t get me started on those.

OBAMA OFFICIAL

– yes, Mr. Chairman, no, Mr. Chairman. The remaining 50, we believe, are too dangerous to release, but they’re also not people, according to the task force, whom we can responsibly put on trial. Throughout this whole process, we have held the protection of the American people as our highest priority.

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

And I appreciate that. So does this committee, and, indeed, the United States Senate. But what I’m asking is why should I support appropriating money to create a new facility for indefinite detention in the name of closing a facility for indefinite detention.

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Well, Mr. Chairman, as we’ve seen over the years, Guantanamo Bay is an international symbol of– it’s a black mark on America. We seek to remove that burden from our image abroad. The State Department has catalogued for this committee extensively all of the problems it’s placed on our foreign relations, and I’m happy to resubmit its list for the record. Additionally, the facility — the facility at Guantanamo is a recruitment aid for al-Qaeda. And we do not believe it is in the interests of the security of the American people to give al-Qaeda this potent recruitment tool.

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

My time is expiring, but I have to say I find this frustrating. Is it Guantanamo that provides this recruitment aid, or is it the indefinite detention without charge that does?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

We believe that– there are, yes, there are problems with indefinite detention without charge that, that — that aid al-Qaeda. But the potency of the symbol of Guantanamo Bay is something– we need to– must be removed.

REPUBLICAN SENATOR

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing. I’d like to begin by acknowledging the presence of our new colleague from the great state of Massachusetts. It is so good to see you here this morning.

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

So ordered.

REPUBLICAN SENATOR

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, there are dangerous people at Guantanamo Bay, are there not? You would agree with that?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

[Brief pause.]  Yes, Senator, there are. And that’s why we’ve taken extraordinary measures at Thomson to provide for the security of both the facility and the surrounding community. As you can see from the workforce plan my staff has provided for the committee, inside Thomson, we have worked with the Justice Department’s bureau of prisons to provide for, among other– for multi-perimeter security, including dual-sided electric stun fencing, outer and inner towers with armed guards, networked cameras and a lot of other measures. It’s even more secure than the federal Supermax prison in Colorado. I’d be happy to provide the workforce plan for the record.

REPUBLICAN SENATOR

I believe my staff has a copy. But Guantanamo Bay is a military facility, correct?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

[Pauses. Adjusts microphone.] Yes, Senator.

REPUBLICAN SENATOR

On a Naval base? In the middle of the Carribean?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Yes, Senator.

REPUBLICAN SENATOR

Anyone ever escape from it?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

No, Senator.

REPUBLICAN SENATOR

Professionally run? Well maintained?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

It is a very professional facility, yes, Senator.

REPUBLICAN SENATOR

Then I simply fail to see why I should support the appropriation of money to close it. We’re still talking about detaining people– about detaining terrorists without charging them, right?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Yes, Senator, at the end of this very deliberative task force rev–

REPUBLICAN SENATOR

Thank you. My time is expiring. Mr. Chairman, it’s clear that we’re not talking about providing rights to terrorists. The administration doesn’t contest the point. I find it baffling, given the soft Obama economy, that we would be asked to provide money to ship terrorists from Gitmo to Illinois. The only thing that can come of this is greater access to the courts. My time has expired.

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

Goddammit! I can’t believe I agree with this guy! Mr. Secretary, why should I provide you a penny of taxpayer money to close one indefinite detention facility and open another?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Well, Senator, the recruitment provided– the recruiting tool that Guantanamo provides to our en–

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

Do you expect me to believe that if we open an indefinite detention facility in the middle of Illinois that al-Qaeda is too stupid to use that as a recruiting tool?

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Senator, the task force approached this in a very deliberate way. We believe closing Guantanamo Bay needs to be a national priority.

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

Are you motherfucking kidding me? The issue isn’t Guantanamo Bay! It’s indefinite detention without trial! It’s torture! It’s the betrayal of the Constitution! You could put the fucking facility in the middle of a Thai whorehouse and as long as it doesn’t provide its inmates with access to the courts I’ll oppose it! You could have Reed Richards of the motherfucking Fantastic Four open a portal to the Negative Zone, put the thing there and I’ll oppose it!

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Senator, we’ve consulted with Dr. Richards, and we–

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

I can’t believe this. I really can’t believe this.

OBAMA OFFICIAL

– And we don’t believe that would be a responsible option.

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR

You realize you’re forcing me to side with my Republican colleague on this, right? The two of use each other in each other’s ads, for the love of God, to get our constituents to vote for us! But you’re asking me to tell my constituents that I approved of money to close one indefinite detention facility and open another! In the middle of America!

OBAMA OFFICIAL

Senator, we’ve reviewed this issue extensively, and we believe this is a responsible way forward, a way that balances the values we all share, the fidelity to the Constitution we all share, and the protection of the American people that we swore an oath to uphold. I’d be happy to submit the task force’s recommendations to the committee for the record.