The headlines are hard to ignore: “Freed Guantanamo Bay Detainee Promotes Jihad in Somalia,” states a Feb. 26 ABC News report; “Several More Ex-Guantánamo Detainees Suspected of Militancy,” shouts a March 7 New York Times piece; and “Ex-Gitmo Detainees Returning to Terrorism Double Under Obama,” reads a March 8 article from The Hill.
Yet, for President Obama, these realities are simply an inconvenience. Shortly after taking office, he ordered the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) within one year. Now, more than seven years later, Republicans and Democrats, the American people and military leaders stand in staunch opposition to his proposal to close GITMO and move detainees to American soil. With threats from Iran, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a resurgent Russia, the military build-up by China and an unpredictable North Korea, the president should focus on enhancing our national security and protecting the American people rather than putting time and attention toward closing GITMO.
Yet, the president’s desperate push continues as the administration releases GITMO detainees at a frightening rate – creating an unnecessary risk to America. In fact, just this week the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that nearly a third of detainees released from GITMO have re-engaged in terrorism. And, in just one year, 12 detainees released by the president have re-engaged with terror networks.
President Obama recently submitted a “plan” to Congress in a last-ditch effort to close GITMO. The flawed plan confirms what we already know: This administration is incapable of presenting a comprehensive, legally justifiable closure and relocation strategy that maintains the safety and security of Americans. The Secretary of Defense Department has confirmed it is against the law, and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has affirmed on multiple occasions that, “the law currently prohibits a transfer to U.S. soil.”
Unfortunately, the president’s track record of executive overreach shows he has little regard for the rule of law.
This is something that is of particular concern to Kansans, as one of the U.S. facilities being considered by the president to detain GITMO terrorist detainees is the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. Fort Leavenworth’s 14,000 soldiers and families and the greater Kansas City-region should not be forced to unfairly bear the burden and consequences that accompany detaining terrorists. Additionally, the critical mission of the Command and General Staff College in educating military members from ally nations across the world would be compromised. Foreign military partners will take into consideration the proximity of detainee terrorists whose allegiance to terror organizations brought devastation and terror to their home countries.
To confirm my belief that detainees should remain at GITMO, I led a congressional visit this month with Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana. We spoke with military leaders including Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GITMO) Commander Rear Admiral Peter J. Clarke. His team oversees the detainees firsthand, and they provided unfiltered insights and details regarding their 24/7 mission.
The mission of JTF-GITMO is difficult as they safeguard our nation from those who wish to do us harm. However, the service members we met on the ground – including several Kansans – are fully committed to carrying out their duties. The facilities themselves are among the best in the world. They are secure, isolated and our military standing guard executes their responsibilities with the highest degree of professionalism.
As the United States continues to face threats of terrorism and conducts combat operations against ISIL, I believe captured militants should be held at Guantanamo Bay. I introduced a Senate Resolution this week with Sen. Daines and several of my Senate colleagues to push to have ISIL captives detained at GITMO. I also joined Sen. Roberts in introducing a Senate Resolution that once again reiterates Congress’ strong opposition to the administration’s unlawful plan to move detainees to the United States.
I remain committed to blocking the transfer of Guantanamo detainees anywhere in the United States, but especially to Fort Leavenworth. The president should shift his priorities to focus on threats to our nation across the globe, and away from fulfilling a flawed campaign promise.