Last week, the House passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which again included language prohibiting the Obama administration from transferring terrorists held at the prison in Guantanamo Bay to American soil. The Associated Press reported:
President Barack Obama's 5-year-old campaign to close the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suffered a major setback as lawmakers finalizing the annual defense policy bill rejected steps toward shuttering the facility. …
The president has pushed to close the post-9/11 prison since his inauguration in January 2009. He has faced strong resistance from Republicans and some Democrats in Congress who don't want terror suspects housed in U.S. facilities and have warned of suspects returning to the fight when they are transferred back to their home countries.
This bipartisan opposition to closing Gitmo stems from the fact that President Obama’s goal is wildly unpopular with the American people. But he doesn’t seem to care, even though he admits these prisoners could “absolutely” return to plotting terrorist attacks on Americans. He’s raising the issue of closing Gitmo with his staff on a weekly basis, and recently told a questioner he’s “working on it.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in October that President Obama is considering unilaterally overriding the law so that he can bring Gitmo prisoners to the United States. “Not only is this scheme dangerous,” Speaker Boehner said, “it is yet another example of what will be this administration’s legacy of lawlessness.”
For now, the Obama administration continues to release prisoners to other countries. In May, it negotiated with terrorists and set free five top Taliban commanders to Qatar – breaking the law by not giving Congress proper notification. Last month, another five were transferred to Slovakia and the Democratic Republic of Georgia, one was returned to Saudi Arabia, and one was sent home to Kuwait. This past weekend, six detainees were transferred to Uruguay. Noted The New York Times:
There have now been 30 transfers under Mr. Hagel’s watch as defense secretary; by comparison, only four were transferred under his predecessor, Leon Panetta, who ran the Pentagon from July 2011 to February 2013.
Still, even if the military were to transfer all the other detainees recommended for such a move, some 69 detainees would remain. They are either facing charges before a military commission or deemed unable to be tried but too dangerous to release.
Recently, Fox News reported that “As many as 20 to 30 former Guantanamo Bay detainees -- some of whom were released within the last three years -- are suspected by intelligence and Defense officials of having joined forces with the Islamic State [ISIL] and other militant groups inside Syria.”
At a time when the United States and our allies are trying to reverse ISIL’s momentum, closing Gitmo and setting terrorists free is a bad idea. Republicans will continue to oppose President Obama’s misguided and naÃ¯ve attempts to bring them into the United States or release them abroad.