The Tenuous Future of Gitmo (Rep. Tom Rooney)

After taking office earlier this year, President Obama issued an executive order to close the detention facilities by the end of the year, without a plan for the relocation of over 200 detainees currently housed at the base. One option that I do not support is bringing the detainees here to the States for trial and placing them in our federal prisons. Many of the detainees pose a serious threat to our national security. The Pentagon just released a report stating that one in seven of the detainees that have been released from Guantanamo have reverted back to terrorism or militant activity. This is a staggering statistic and a chance we cannot afford to take. It is completely unacceptable to move these dangerous individuals to our federal prisons where they will be integrated with other prisoners.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to tour the detention facilities and talk with the troops working on the base. Make no mistake; the soldiers operating the base are doing an outstanding job. Despite what you may hear from media reports, the detention facilities at the base are similar to those of maximum security prisons here in the states.

The facilities at Guantanamo are more than adequate for the trials and tribunals of the detainees. The base has a brand new courtroom which has never been used. When visiting Guantanamo, I was surprised to see ongoing construction at a facility now scheduled to close. Why close a facility that is equipped and clearly capable of housing and trying these dangerous individuals?

During a recent House Judiciary hearing, I had the opportunity to ask Attorney General Holder and the commanders at Guantanamo the prospect of the detention facilities being used as a prison after detainees are tried and convicted. I was told this idea had not even been considered by the administration. Use of the facility as a prison should not be ruled out after having spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to build a state-of-the-art, safe, secure complex. This idea merits real, thoughtful consideration and debate.

One of the first bills I introduced this Congress would prevent any of the detainees at Guantanamo from being transferred to prisons or detention facilities in Florida. I know the people of the 16th district of Florida don’t want dangerous terrorists housed in our home state. Closing Guantanamo without a clear plan for the detainees during this time of uncertainty is a risk to our national security and a waste of taxpayer dollars.