GOP senators want greater transparency on Gitmo transfers

Republican senators on Thursday criticized the Obama administration for releasing five Yemeni detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Oman and Estonia, and called for more transparency.

“As this week’s transfer demonstrates, the administration continues to transfer Guantanamo detainees while providing virtually no details to the American people regarding the risk the detainees present to our country and our allies, as well as the detainees’ affiliations with terrorist groups and the conditions of their transfer," Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainConservative group cuts ties with Michelle Malkin Democratic debate at Tyler Perry's could miss the mark with black voters Donald Trump's 2020 election economic gamble MORE (R-Ariz.), and Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (R-N.H.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Prisons chief: FBI investigating whether 'criminal enterprise' played role in Epstein death MORE (R-S.C.), who sit on the panel, said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

They noted that four of the detainees are being sent to Oman, which neighbors Yemen, where one of the alleged Paris attackers reportedly trained with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2011. 

"If that report is accurate, we just sent four Guantanamo detainees, with potential ties to al Qaeda, to Oman—the same country that reportedly served as the jumping off point for Said Kouachi to travel to Yemen for terrorist training," the senators added.  

“If the detainees the administration has been transferring are truly not a threat to the American people, the administration should provide the unclassified details our legislation requires for the 32 detainees whom the administration has transferred since May." 

Ayotte, backed by McCain, Graham and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrMcConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Bipartisan senators urge national security adviser to appoint 5G coordinator GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy MORE (R-N.C.), also introduced a bill earlier this week that would essentially bar transfers of more detainees from the Cuba facility. 

Specifically, the bill would block any transfers to Yemen, suspend transfers of high- and medium-risk detainees, and require the Defense secretary to provide an unclassified report on detainees who have been deemed high or medium risk at any point. 

The bill also extends a bar on detainee transfers to the U.S., as well as the use of any government funds in the Defense budget — or the budget of any other agency — to construct or modify facilities to house detainees.

The senators argued at a press conference earlier in the week that releasing detainees could help rebuild al Qaeda.

"At a time that the administration suggests that al Qaeda has been decimated, at a minimum why would we begin to rebuild al Qaeda?" said Burr. 

"A time out is needed based on circumstances," said Graham. 

The administration has begun a push to reduce the population at Guantánamo — now at 122 — to below 100, so White House officials can argue that keeping the facility open is too expensive. 

Administration officials say costs several million to house each detainee, and they want to transfer them to a supermax security prison in the U.S.

Officials concede that 30 percent of detainees released have been suspected or confirmed of returning to terrorism.

But, they argue, focusing on the "confirmed" cases slashes that percentage nearly in half. Many of those "confirmed" have been killed or recaptured, according to Cliff Sloan, former State Department envoy for closing Guantánamo.