On the eve of the President’s self-imposed deadline to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Ranking Member Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and the leading Republicans on the Homeland Security, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Foreign Affairs Committees today introduced legislation that would restrict the President’s ability to transfer Guantanamo detainees to countries with ungoverned spaces or active al-Qaeda terrorists or networks.
The legislation (H.R. 4490), entitled the Detainee Transfer and Release Security Act of 2010, is in direct response to the high number of detainees who have returned to fight against the United States alongside al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks after being released from Guantanamo. The inherent danger of releasing detainees to countries where they can easily return to terrorism was underscored by the Christmas Day terrorist attack on Northwest Flight 253-where a former Guantanamo detainee is a senior leader of the organization that was responsible for planning and coordinating the attack.
The Detainee Transfer and Release Security Act of 2010 would require the President, prior to any detainee transfer from Guantanamo to a foreign country, to certify to Congress the following: the country is not a state sponsor of terrorism; it can secure and exercise control over its territory; no portion of the country serves as a safe haven for terrorist groups, particularly al-Qaeda; and the country has no confirmed case of any individual released into their custody from Guantanamo that returned to terrorist activities.
In writing the legislation, Ranking Member McKeon and the Armed Services Committee Republicans took into consideration testimony made by General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. Central Command, which highlighted the challenges to U.S. national security posed by Yemen and other countries with ungoverned space and active al-Qaeda terrorists. These countries, according to Mr. McKeon need the United States to help them with their security-not the reverse. Transfers and releases to such countries threaten both our and their security.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in April 2009, General Petraeus stated, “Yemen stands out from its neighbors on the Peninsula. The inability of the Yemeni government to secure and exercise control over all of its territory offers terrorist and insurgents groups in the region, particularly Al Qaeda, a safe haven in which to plan, organize, and support terrorists operations. It is important that this problem be addressed…”
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), the senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee: “Tomorrow is the President’s self-imposed deadline to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. One thing has become clear during the past year-the Administration has the wrong policy on how to handle dangerous terrorists captured in the ongoing war on terrorism. Whether it be the ill-advised decision to bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to New York City for trial or the effort to relocate terrorists held in Cuba to the American heartland, the Administration has shown an amazing lack of sensitivity for the concerns of Americans.
“The Administration has no coherent policies in place for the continued detention and prosecution of these terrorists. The Administration also lacks rigorous procedures for transferring certain Guantanamo detainees to other countries. The rising recidivism rates of former Guantanamo detainees demonstrate the need to change course. In the absence of the Administration revising its Guantanamo detainee transfer and release policy, we are introducing legislation that requires the President to certify and assure the American people that Guantanamo detainees will not be transferred or released to countries where they are likely to return to the fight against the United States.”
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC): “We should not release confirmed terrorists back to countries with a record of orchestrating attacks on America. These terrorists will simply end up back on the battlefield with the intent to harm U.S service members and American citizens.”
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC): “The Christmas bomber gave Americans a loud wakeup call that we are still at war and highlighted holes in our security structures. The government’s response was troubling to everyone who expects our government to connect dots and recognize bright red flags. The Christmas bomber’s connection to Yemen and al-Qaeda put a spotlight on the country, and it should have been shining a long time ago. Going forward, it’s crucial that our government prevents GITMO detainees from being transferred to countries like Yemen with ungoverned spaces and active terrorist organizations.”
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT): “This legislation provides a necessary safeguard to help ensure that the United States, during the GTMO detainee transfer process, is in no way assisting terrorist and insurgents groups’ capabilities to recruit operatives for their terrorists operations. This bill will bolster national security and make certain that the Obama Administration’s current policy allowing for the transfer and release of some detainees back to countries known to be harboring terrorists or terrorist training camps is stopped.”
Rep. John Kline (R-MN), a 25-year veteran of the Marine Corps: “Al-Qaeda and its affiliated networks remain formidable enemies of our country and democracy worldwide. Shifting responsibility for the United States’ security to countries with a demonstrated al-Qaeda presence would be reckless and irresponsible.”
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): “The Obama Administration continues to demonstrate a complete denial of the fundamental reality of the enemy we are fighting. There are many, many well-documented cases of former Gitmo detainees who have been released and immediately returned to terrorist activities. The Detainee Transfer and Release Security Act of 2010 is vital to preventing more American lives from being lost or endangered due to our blindly transferring Gitmo detainees to countries that are known havens of terrorist groups.”
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA): “The Christmas Day bomb plot which was planned in Yemen uncovered just how far al-Qaeda has spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and beyond as well as the need for our government to be proactive in confronting this continuing threat. I am a proud cosponsor of the ‘Detainee Transfer and Release Security Act’ because it will force the President to certify that GITMO detainees will not be transferred to governments that turn a blind eye to terrorism and require the Administration to keep tabs on detainees to prove that they have not returned to terrorism after they leave our custody.”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA): “To win the War on Terror, America must be proactive and always one step ahead of its enemies. The Christmas Day incident sheds light on the flaws in the Obama Administration’s detainee release policies – particularly those pertaining to nations which house al-Qaeda operatives, such as Yemen. The legislation that we are introducing today will require the Administration to ask the hard questions and to certify that in fact a country is prepared to take in detainees. If a country is found to be unprepared, our transfer of detainees to that nation must end immediately.”
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX): “I will continue to vehemently oppose any and all misguided priorities that attempt to place America in a pre-9/11 mindset and clearly put political considerations and the interests of liberal advocacy groups ahead of the safety and security of the American people.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO): “This bill will ensure that detainees from Guantanamo Bay are not sent to countries that are not able to control terrorist activities within their borders. It is vital that we take immediate action to stop what has become a revolving door-where terrorists simply return to extremist breeding grounds and continue in their old ways. While I prefer that these individuals remain at Guantanamo Bay, if the Administration is intent on releasing them, we must at the very least, ensure they aren’t going to places that will further radicalize them.”
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA): “I am pleased to join my colleagues as an original cosponsor of the Detainee Transfer and Release Security Act of 2010. I remain steadfastly committed to ensuring terrorists are not brought to our shores, and I remain concerned about the activities of detainees after they are released from Guantanamo Bay. Many of the home countries of these released detainees harbor al-Qaeda cells and operatives. We simply cannot allow these individuals to return to the battlefield and have a renewed opportunity to attack our citizens or our men and women in uniform”
Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK): “I have opposed President Obama’s decision to close GTMO and transfer known terrorists into other nations since day one and I believe his rationale for this decision is totally flawed. While I remain opposed to their transfer at all, we absolutely cannot afford to recycle them into unstable and hostile countries and risk the security of the American people at home and abroad. That’s why I am proud to coauthor this legislation, a common-sense bill to ensure we don’t send known terrorists into countries that could likely provide a safe haven for planning, organizing and supporting future terrorist operations. To ensure anything less would be a major step backward in our fight against terrorism and would put Americans at great risk.”
Rep. John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA): “I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that captured terrorists do not end up in the United States or back on the battlefield fighting U.S. troops. This legislation is crucial to the war on terror and the safety and security of our men and women in uniform.”
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL): “We cannot allow this administration to transfer detainees from GITMO to potentially dangerous countries which do not have the ability to control and root out terrorists. It is unacceptable for the U.S. to transfer detainees to Yemen or other nations that harbor terrorists.”