Why Gitmo Can’t Be Closed
The law banning the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to terror hotspots is weak and needs to be fixed. In 2012, the Administration moved al Qaeda terrorist Ibrahim al Qosi from Guantanamo to Sudan’s terror-sponsoring regime through a backdoor loophole allowing a “pre-trial agreement entered in a military commission case” to waive the transfer ban.
In December of 2015, video evidence showed the former aide to Osama bin Laden as a top recruiter for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Despite al Qosi’s return to terrorism, the Administration is so desperate to close Gitmo that they will utilize various backdoor loopholes in current law and even appear to be considering reversing the designation of certain state sponsors of terrorism.
When I asked Secretary of State John Kerry about this alarming yet unsurprising development at a congressional hearing, Kerry could only respond that al Qosi is “not supposed to be doing that” and promise unspecified “consequences.”
Worse, Secretary Kerry said the Administration is actually considering removing Sudan from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The intelligence community agrees 30 percent of terrorists released from Gitmo are known or suspected to have re-engaged in terrorism. To stop further transfer of Gitmo detainees to terror hotspots where they can easily rejoin the fight, I introduced S. 2740 to close all loopholes in the ban on transfers to state sponsors of terrorism — Syria, Sudan and Iran — and permanently ban transfers to other terror hotspots like Yemen, Libya and Somalia.
My bill would make all existing prohibitions permanent and airtight — so no more Ibrahim al-Qosis.
Currently, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) temporarily bans transfers to Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Syria and only requires certification that a detainee is not being transferred to a state sponsor of terrorism. The certification requirement was removed in FY 2014 and only recently restored in the FY 2016 bill.
Instead of relying on a convoluted and secretive certification process, my bill strengthens the ban on sending former detainees to terror hotspots by explicitly prohibiting transfers to state sponsors of terrorism.
By making all prohibitions explicit and permanent, my bill ensures the provisions cannot be quietly weakened or eliminated in future annual defense policy bills.
These steps are critical to keeping released detainees away from terror hotspots and keeping Americans safe, but they alone are not enough. We need to keep dangerous terrorists locked up in Gitmo.
Since 2009, the Administration has released 160 detainees. So far this year, the Administration has transferred at least 27 detainees to foreign countries through undisclosed agreements. Another 26 detainees have been cleared for transfer in the next few months.
Of the 80 prisoners remaining in Gitmo, 46 of them are currently deemed “not eligible” to leave U.S. custody or are not going through the military commissions process.
Closing Gitmo means these terrorists are either sent to other countries or brought into our own. Maintaining Gitmo is the best way to safely and humanely house these foreign terrorist detainees captured on the battlefield, including Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, bomb makers, terrorist trainers, recruiters, the terrorists involved in the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors, and the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Bipartisan majorities in Congress have blocked the closure of Gitmo because the facility has kept terrorists off the battlefield while giving our military and national security leaders access to vital intelligence that has likely saved American lives.
Keeping Gitmo detainees out of countries that are breeding grounds for terrorism — like Syria, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Libya — is a common-sense step to prevent them from plotting attacks against Americans.
Keeping them locked up in the secure facility at Guantanamo Bay is the best way to prevent terrorists like Sudan’s Ibrahim al Qosi from ever putting American lives at risk again.