Lawmakers to DOD: Reject 'no touch' policy sought by 9/11 plotter

Lawmakers to DOD: Reject 'no touch' policy sought by 9/11 plotter
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Lawmakers in both parties are urging the Pentagon to reject a petition from five prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility asking that female service members not be allowed to touch them.

A military judge, Col. James Pohl, in January ordered a temporary "no touch" policy for female guards on the base after the detainees — including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks — said contact with female guards violated their religious beliefs.

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The policy could be made permanent in the coming days, outraging lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"We cannot allow our values to be compromised by prohibiting female soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen from certain assignments due to the objections of our enemies," said a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter spearheaded by Reps. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenDems face tough vote on Green New Deal Aviation groups push bill that would fund FAA during shutdown Transportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards MORE (D-Wash.). 

"We value all that our women in uniform do and have done to keep our nation safe, and must stand by our principles in this war of ideas," said the letter, first obtained by The Hill. 

The group of five detainees petitioning for the “no touch” policy includes Mohammed, who was Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in al Qaeda.

"He was Al Qaeda’s chief propagandist, and continues to support that role through his legal actions at Guantanamo. Attempts to impose Mr. Mohammed’s interpretation of religious law on America’s men and women in uniform must be unequivocally denied," the lawmakers said.

The lawmakers said numerous accommodations have already been made for the religious beliefs of the Muslim detainees, such as allowing breaks during court hearings for prayers, access to the Koran and halal-only meals in according with Muslim dietary restrictions. 

Last week, the commander of the guard force at Guantanamo testified that the petition by the detainees was an attempt to stall their court proceedings. 

“I think it’s based on an attempt to stall these proceedings,” said Army Colonel David Heath, according to Reuters. 

He also said that before 2014, there had never been a complaint by any of the remaining 107 detainees about being touched by female guards. 

"This case exemplifies the continued manipulation of our system to benefit terrorists directly responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent Americans," they wrote.  

The lawmakers said prohibiting women from transporting Muslim detainees would discriminate against U.S. troops and allow the detainees to dictate the terms of their imprisonment.

"Women in uniform should not have to endure prejudice based on the convictions of enemy combatants, and male soldiers should not be forced to fill these deployments at a higher rate than necessary as a result," they said in the letter. 

"While the United States should make certain allowances with respect to human rights, we must not compromise our basic principles at the behest of the very individuals who seek to destroy them," they said. 

The lawmakers are asking Carter to provide Congress with the current policy regarding assignments at Guantanamo Bay, including any changes that have been made to this policy since Sept. 11, 2001.

They have asked him to include a detailed explanation if any of the changes were to "accommodate religious or cultural interests."  

"While the United States should make certain allowances with respect to human rights, we must not compromise our basic principles at the behest of the very individuals who seek to destroy them."  

The letter has been endorsed by Women In International Security and the Service Women’s Action Network. 

Other lawmakers who have signed the letter include Reps. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), Richard Nugent (R-Fla.), David Rouzer (R-N.C.), Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarHouse passes bill expressing support for NATO McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader On The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown MORE (R-Ariz.), Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), Brian Babin (R-Texas), David SchweikertDavid SchweikertThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Ethics committee expanding investigation into GOP rep over finance questions MORE (R-Ariz.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksCoulter slams Trump as 'lazy and incompetent,’ says he could face primary challenger Dems press Pentagon officials to explain why troops are still at border House Republicans call for moving State of the Union to Senate chamber MORE (R-Ala.), Madeleine BordalloMadeleine Mary BordalloThis week: Lawmakers return to mourn George H.W. Bush Guam New Members 2019 Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks MORE (D-Guam), Steve Knight (R-Calif.), Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaTrump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Casey secures third Senate term over Trump-backed Barletta MORE (R-Pa.), Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Rick CrawfordRichard (Rick) CrawfordGOP announces members who will serve on House intel panel Judiciary Democrats want Whitaker to testify in 2019 Farm bill’s expansion of trade opportunities between the US and Cuba historic and mutually beneficial MORE (R-Ark.), Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.).

This story was updated at 11:33 a.m.