GOP chairman asks Obama to 'immediately halt' all Gitmo transfers

GOP chairman asks Obama to 'immediately halt' all Gitmo transfers
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is calling on President Obama not to transfer any more detainees out of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility after receiving what he says is a “troubling new report” from the intelligence community.

“The committee has just received a troubling new report from the Intelligence Community indicating that former detainees recently transferred out of Guantanamo Bay by your administration are attempting to return to terrorism,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) wrote in a letter to Obama on Tuesday. “Even more concerning, this report indicates that the country to which these detainees were transferred has little ability to prevent their return to the battlefield — a fact known to your administration prior to their transfer.

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“In light of this dangerous revelation, I again ask that you immediately halt all transfers from Guantanamo Bay and take steps to secure former detainees who pose a threat to U.S. national security.”

The letter does not elaborate on the contents of the report.

Royce has long been critic of Obama’s efforts to close the detention facility and has repeatedly called on him to stop transfers out, saying the administration is sending detainees to countries ill-equipped to handle them.

Republicans point to the director of national intelligence’s biannual report that says about 30 percent of detainees released by Obama and President George W. Bush are confirmed to have returned or are suspected of returning to terrorism.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, highlights that the same report says 5.6 percent of detainees released by Obama are confirmed to have returned to terrorism.

Royce’s letter comes as Obama is in his final push to empty the facility as much as possible before he leaves office. The administration transferred four detainees to Saudi Arabia last week and reportedly notified Congress last month that it plans to transfer up to 19 before Jan. 20. If all 19 are transferred, just 40 detainees will remain at the facility.

President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE has also called on Obama not to transfer anyone else, tweeting last week that “there should be no further releases from Gitmo.”

Royce, who carbon copied Trump on the letter, highlighted the case of Tariq al-Sawah, who was transferred to Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2016. A 2014 military profile of al-Sawah alleged he was an al Qaeda explosives expert who “probably” designed devices used to attack U.S. targets.

The profile also said he "seems unlikely" to pursue re-engagement, and a review board cleared him for transfer because of a "change of ideology and a renunciation of violence," according to its written decision.

Bosnia is home to a high number of foreign fighters and a high unemployment rate, Royce said.

“Yet the administration transferred al-Sawah — a man with a highly dangerous and marketable skill — to the country with no citizenship or ability to obtain legitimate employment,” he wrote.

“Your efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay cannot come at the expense of U.S. national security,” Royce concluded. “Again, I ask that you immediately halt all transfers from Guantanamo Bay and take steps to immediately secure former detainees who pose a threat to the United States.”