Republicans move to oppose closing Gitmo

Republicans move to oppose closing Gitmo
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Republicans are digging in against President Obama’s plan for closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, formally introducing a resolution of opposition Tuesday as a new intelligence report found the number of released prisoners returning to terrorism has increased.

GOP lawmakers, who were already staunchly opposed to the plan to close the military prison, used the new data as an opportunity to pile on their criticisms.

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“As the latest Director of National Intelligence report confirms, the Obama administration’s misguided effort to empty and then close Guantanamo is putting terrorists back on the battlefield and making Americans less safe,” Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteFive possible successors to Mattis Mattis resigns, says views aren't in line with Trump's Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms MORE (R-N.H.), who is in a tough reelection fight, said in a written statement. “Our troops should never have to confront a former Guantanamo detainee on the battlefield.”

Of the 144 detainees released under Obama as of Jan. 15, a dozen, or 8.3 percent, are suspected of re-engaging in terrorism or insurgency, according to the report. That’s double the number six months ago.

Seven detainees (4.9 percent) released under Obama have been confirmed as rejoining the fight.

But the White House and Democrats who have supported closure remained undeterred by the new numbers, saying the recidivism rate is much lower than it was under President George W. Bush and actually reinforces Obama’s plan.

“My understanding of the conclusions of the report is that the percentage of Gitmo detainees that are confirmed to have re-engaged in the fight is actually below 5 percent,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday. “And that is a testament to the kinds of policies this administration put in place on the president’s second day in office to carefully review, on a case-by-case basis, the status of individual detainees and to make careful decisions about what sort of security measures could be put into place if they were transferred to other countries.”

Of the 532 detainees released under Bush, 111, or 20.9 percent, are confirmed to have re-engaged. Another 74 (13.9 percent) are suspected of doing so, according to the National Intelligence report.

Under Obama’s plan to close the facility, 35 detainees deemed eligible would be sent overseas. Another 46 detainees would continue to face review boards to determine their eligibility. 

The remaining detainees would be brought to a facility in the United States.

On Tuesday, Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsPompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation Budowsky: Warning to Senate Republicans The Hill's Morning Report — Negotiations crumble as shutdown enters day 17 MORE (R-Kan.) introduced a resolution rejecting the White House’s plan, focusing on the part of the proposal that would bring up to 60 detainees stateside.

The law already prohibits the president from transferring detainees to the United States, but some Republicans fear he will use executive action to bypass the ban.

“The president has failed to find a suitable site in a U.S. community to relocate terrorists held at Guantánamo because there is no suitable site on our shores,” Roberts said in a statement. “This resolution puts the Senate on record, again demonstrating to the president our clear opposition to this security risk. Perhaps something will deter him from an agenda in which the wishes and the security of the American people are last on the list.”

The resolution was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottIf Republicans rebuked Steve King, they must challenge Donald Trump McConnell rebukes Steve King over white nationalist comments Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy MORE (S.C.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO MORE (Colo.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (Kan.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMcConnell: Senate won't override Trump veto on shutdown fight Senate immigration talks fall apart Emergency declaration option for wall tests GOP MORE (Mo.). 

Under Obama, detainees have been transferred to a foreign country after approval from the Guantánamo Review Task Force set up in 2009 or the Periodic Review Board set up in 2011. Both consist of representatives from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State, and the offices of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and director of National Intelligence.

The secretary of Defense makes the final call on transferring detainees.

The administration also says that it gets assurances on security from the countries to which it sends detainees.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries GOP senators would support postponing State of the Union MORE (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Bush-era policies are to blame for the recidivism rate.

“Many of the people that were being released, there was no choice because we couldn’t establish criminal charges because of the manner in which they were detained before the Obama administration,” he said. “This is a problem President Obama inherited. It’s a problem he never should have had. Gitmo Bay had a limited purpose for intelligence initially. After that, it was an iconic perception of America not living up to international commitments.”

Furthermore, he said, the recidivism rate under Obama is not distressing.

“We want to see it at zero; don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But I don’t think we would be shocked by that type of a number.”

Jordan Fabian contributed.