Republicans on Monday blasted the Obama administration's weekend transfer of nine Guantánamo detainees to Saudi Arabia, and vowed to fight efforts to shut the detention facility down.
Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Sununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate MORE (R-N.H.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who is facing a tough reelection fight, said the transfer unnecessarily puts Americans at increased risk.
“With the release announced this weekend of nine Yemeni detainees to Saudi Arabia, the administration continues to dangerously release terrorists from Guantánamo and unnecessarily put Americans at increased risk in order to fulfill a misguided campaign promise — all while refusing to level with the American people regarding the detainees’ terrorist risks, activities, and affiliations," she said in a statement.
The administration released its plan earlier this year to transfer as many detainees as possible from the facility in Cuba, and then bring those remaining to a facility in the U.S.
The detainees released on Saturday, all from Yemen, include hunger striker Tariq Ali Abdullah Ahmed Ba Odah. The other released detainees are: Ahmed Umar Abdullah Al-Hikimi, Abdul Rahman Mohammed Saleh Nasir, Ali Yahya Mahdi Al-Raimi, Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed Al-Hamiri, Ahmed Yaslam Said Kuman, Abd al Rahman Al-Qyati, Mansour Muhammed Ali Al-Qatta and Mashur Abdallah Muqbil Ahmed Al-Sabri.
Republicans — as well as some Democrats — oppose bringing detainees to U.S. soil, but the administration has vowed to continue transferring detainees approved for release. Only 80 detainees remain at the facility today.
Ayotte earlier this month introduced the Detaining Terrorists to Protect Americans Act of 2016, which would permanently ban the transfer of detainees to the U.S. and suspend their transfer internationally.
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee and Army veteran, warned that previously released detainees have "returned to jihad and killed Americans.”
"The risk of these nine men doing the same is far too high and the president should cease his effort to empty out the detention facility," he said on Monday.
Republicans point to a 30 percent figure that represents detainees released by Presidents George W. Bush and Obama who are confirmed or suspected of re-engaging in terrorism.
Administration officials, meanwhile, highlight a 4.9 percent figure that represents the number of detainees released by Obama confirmed to be re-engaging in terrorism. Another 8 percent released by Obama are suspected of re-engaging.
The administration is considering several locations inside the U.S. to bring the remaining detainees to, including Pompeo's state of Kansas.
"I will continue to fight to ensure that does not happen," he said.
Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Tech groups take aim at Texas Republican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services Debt ceiling fight pits corporate America against Republicans MORE (R-Ark.), another member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said although Saudi Arabia is an important ally, their ability to prevent detainees from returning to the fight is "poor."
"While Saudi Arabia is an important ally in the fight against radical Islam, their track record in preventing Guantanamo detainees from returning to the battlefield is poor, and they share a border with the failed state of Yemen, home of [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula]," he said.
"The American people and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia deserve to know the full extent of past terrorist activities of the nine terrorists released today," said Cotton, an Army veteran.