CIA director Leon Panetta told Congress on Wednesday that if Osama bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri is captured they will be held by the military and probably will be sent to Guantanamo Bay, the first time any senior administration official has outlined a detention plan for al Qaeda's top leadership.
"We would probably move them quickly into military jurisdiction at Bagram and then eventually move them probably to Guantanamo," said Panetta.
Panetta's statement indicated the administration is contemplating the future use of the military detention center in Cuba even though it says it is still committed to closing the facility. The last person moved there was under the Bush administration in March 2008.
Congress has barred the administration from moving any Guantanamo detainee into the US for any purpose. And Panetta's statement would appear to rule out a federal trial because it would require sending the two men directly to the United States from Bagram with no stop in Cuba.
Some former officials said Panetta's statement amounted to an admission that the Obama administration, as much as its predecessor, needs Guantanamo or an equivalent facility to house any high-value detainees it captures in the future.
(In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post)