WASHINGTON — A top Senate opponent of closing Guantanamo and transferring high-risk detainees to American soil is proposing that detained ISIS members be sent to the prison.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), along with Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act urging the transfers.
U.S. special forces captured Abu Dawud, a leader in ISIS’ chemical weapons program, in March. After interrogating him, he was handed over to the Iraqis.
“We conducted an initial interrogation, turned him over to Iraqi forces for detention and disposition. And if we need — if we have a question that we think he’s got the answer to, we absolutely can pursue that, whether it’s in-person or you know, through our partners depending on the situation,” Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren said last month. “Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking the Iraqis, hey, go ask him this. Other times, we will want to do it in-person. There isn’t any — there is no hindrance there at all. We have access to that intelligence as we need it.”
Warren said in March that the U.S. holds captured ISIS fighters usually for less than a month. “Fourteen to 30 days is a ballpark figure, but even that is not really completely nailed down,” he said. “There isn’t a hard definition of short-term.”
CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel has noted that a long-term plan is needed as more ISIS members are captured.
Gardner argued last week as he introduced the amendment, though, that “the Obama Administration lacks a coherent strategy to defeat ISIS, and that’s why it’s more important now than ever that we capitalize on our intelligence-gathering tools, such as the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.”
“Instead of closing the prison, the Administration should transfer detained ISIS fighters to Guantanamo Bay,” the senator added.
Gardner’s state is one site considered by the administration for Guantanamo transfers, which are currently prohibited under the law.
Lawmakers have been introducing bills to keep it that way.
Daines introduced a resolution on March 10 to utilize the Cuba prison for keeping ISIS detainees. That has 15 GOP co-sponsors and was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The resolution states that “all individuals captured by the United States during combat operations against ISIL that meet such criteria by their affiliation with ISIL must be detained outside the United States and its territories and should be transferred to United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay.”
Daines toured Gitmo that month and noted afterward that he “saw plenty of vacant cells.”
“Terrorists captured by U.S. forces belong in Guantanamo, a location that has played a pivotal role for collecting intelligence from detainees and keeping terrorists off the battlefield in the global war on terror. These dangerous individuals do not belong on U.S. soil, or in the custody of a nation that may allow them to return to the battlefield as we have seen before,” the Montana senator said.
“We must ensure they don’t continue to spread radical Islam throughout the world, and Guantanamo Bay serves an integral purpose for just that.”
In the House version of the NDAA, the White House “strongly objects to several provisions of the bill that relate” to Guantanamo.
“As the Administration has said many times before, operating this facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a May 16 veto threat. “In February, the Administration submitted a comprehensive plan to safely and responsibly close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to bring this chapter of our history to a close. Rather than taking steps to close the facility, this bill aims to extend its operation.”
“…These restrictions would limit the ability of the Executive Branch to take the steps necessary to develop alternative locations for a detention facility, and from fulfilling its commitment to close the facility at Guantanamo… These restrictions are unwarranted and threaten to interfere with the Executive Branch’s ability to determine the appropriate disposition of detainees and its flexibility to determine when and where to prosecute them, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests, and when and where to transfer them consistent with our national security and our humane treatment policy.”