Ten Republican senators are asking the military for more information on last month’s release of a high-profile detainee from Guantánamo Bay.
The GOP senators, including presidential candidate Marco Rubio (Fla.), are specifically concerned that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was not listed among those approving the transfer in a notice to Congress.
“Upon reviewing the notification of transfer we noticed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff was not one of the entities listed as ‘concurring’ and ‘approving’ of the transfer, as is the norm,” the group, led by Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' White House announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics Demand Justice launches ad campaign backing Biden nominee who drew GOP pushback MORE (R-Ark.), wrote in letters to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford dated Friday.
At issue is the transfer of Shaker Aamer, a British resident and Saudi Arabian citizen who was held at Guantánamo for 13 years. He was released to the United Kingdom, where he has a wife and children, at the end of October.
Aamer became a cause célèbre among human rights activists, and British Prime Minister David Cameron raised his case to President Obama during a visit to the White House in January.
The senators want to know why the Joint Chiefs did not concur in the decision to transfer Aamer and whether Carter will seek the advice of the Joint Chiefs on future transfers.
The senators also took issue with fact that the press release announcing the transfer said, “Aamer was unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force.”
“Did you review the Shaker Aamer press release prior to publication?” they wrote to Carter. “If so, why did you publicly claim the Guantanamo Review Task Force unanimously supported Aamer's transfer when it does not appear the Joint Chiefs supported that transfer decision?”
In a written statement, the Pentagon said the chairman of Joint Chiefs was part of the review board that approved Aamer's transfer and reiterated that the decision was unanimous.
"In 2009, the Joint Chiefs of Staff was part of the six agency Guantanamo Review Task Force which conducted a comprehensive review of this case," according to the statement. "As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, Aamer was unanimously approved for transfer pending appropriate security and treatment agreements by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force. It would not be appropriate for us to discuss internal and pre-decisional matters. The secretary of Defense makes the final decision to transfer detainees."
The letters were signed by Republican Sens. Pat Roberts (Kan.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), John Boozman (Ark.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Susan Collins (Maine), in addition to Cotton and Rubio.
-- Updated at 5:56 p.m.