WASHINGTON — All Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee warned President Obama today that he is releasing “increasingly dangerous terrorists” in his rush to fulfill his vow to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
Earlier this month, the Defense Department announced the transfer of 15 detainees to the United Arab Emirates, a dozen Yemenis and three Afghans.
The UAE said it plans to send the men and their families through a rehabilitation program launched in November. The program includes psychiatrists, social workers and clergy. Terrorism-related crimes carry penalties up to capital punishment in the UAE. The emirates accepted five Yemeni detainees last year and a UAE citizen back in 2008.
“As you continue to draw down the prisoner population at Guantanamo Bay you are releasing increasingly dangerous terrorists who are more closely linked to al-Qaida and attacks against the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan,” the lawmakers, led by chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), wrote in the letter to Obama. “This largest-ever release includes several who trained in al-Qaida training camps, were bodyguards for Usama bin Laden, and fought at Tora Bora. They were non-compliant with their interrogators and hostile towards the Joint Task Force Guantanamo guards.”
They noted that the Periodic Review Board report for Obaidullah, an Afghan detainee who goes by one name, said he was “mostly compliant” because he committed “less than 100 infractions since his arrival-a low number relative to the other detainees.”
“If 100 infractions is considered a low number, then the bar for acceptable behavior has skewed far from reality,” the Intelligence GOPs wrote. “Obaidullah was part of an al-Qaida-associated improvised explosive device cell that targeted coalition forces in Khowst, Afghanistan, and was captured with 23 antitank landmines and a notebook containing electronic and detonator schematics involving explosives and mines. His lack of stated intent to re-engage in terrorist activities is due to his lack of candor with his interrogators who admit that they ‘lack insight into his current mindset.’ That is no rationalization for his transfer.”
“Your justification for emptying Guantanamo, despite the significant known risks, are not credible,” the letter continued. “Nearly one third of detainees released from Guantanamo have reengaged in terrorist activities; the costs associated with maintaining the facility have not significantly diminished because of the transfers; and the facility does not feature prominently in terrorist propaganda or recruitment efforts.”
“Your actions increase the risk to U.S. forces and any injuries or deaths as a result are solely your responsibility. Therefore, we urge you again to stop transferring dangerous detainees from the Guantanamo detention facility and instead generate a comprehensive strategic plan to combat the growing terrorist threat to the United States and our allies.”
Sixty-one detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay. Only 20 of the remaining prisoners have been cleared for transfer to a suitable country.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters last week the administration is “going to do our best to try to get this closed — and it’s our expectation that that’s what we’ll do.”
However, Earnest added that he couldn’t “lay out for you exactly the path for how that’s going to take place right now.”
“But the president has made clear that this is a priority,” he said. And he did that in the earliest days of his presidency, and it remains a priority here at — in the last several months of his presidency.”
Nunes said today that Obama’s “last-gasp effort to fulfill his senseless campaign promise to close the Guantanamo Bay facility… is putting American lives at risk, particularly those of our servicemen and women.”
“These detainees are in GITMO for a reason – they are among the most dangerous terrorists we have captured,” the chairman said in a statement. “About one-third of previously released detainees have already resumed terrorist activities, and there is no reason to think this new group will be any different. It is preposterous to continue releasing dangerous terrorists who will try to kill Americans as soon as they have the opportunity to do so.”