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Those who don’t know history…

September 15, 2016
In The News

Placing a campaign promise above national security and troop safety, President Obama has accelerated his practice of transferring known terrorists out of the secure confines at Guantanamo Bay and sending them back to the Middle East, often just miles from their home countries. To put an end to this practice, the House this week will consider H.R. 5351, a bill I gladly co-sponsored, which would halt further transfers of terrorists detained at Guantanamo.  

A little over a year ago, as the Chairwoman of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, I oversaw the completion of the investigation into the “Taliban Five” transfer, when the Administration unlawfully transferred five known terrorists from Guantanamo in exchange for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

The investigation concluded that the Administration not only defied the law by not giving Congress 30 days advanced notice, it likely believed this transfer would “ease the case for the departure of others presumed to be less risky,” meaning the President’s campaign promise to close Guantanamo might be easier to fulfill.

Not long after this transfer, however, reports stated three of the Taliban Five attempted to reengage with their old terror networks.

More recently, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as of January of this year, almost one-third of former Guantanamo detainees are suspected or confirmed to have “return[ed] to terrorist activities.”

This recidivism threat is not new. Yet the Obama Administration continues to ignore the ramifications of transferring terrorists from Guantanamo.

But those who don’t know (or choose to ignore) history, are doomed to repeat it.

In August of this year, President Obama transferred 15 terrorists from Guantanamo to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country not too far from Afghanistan – home to three of the recently transferred terrorists – and just a stone’s throw from Yemen – another hotbed of terrorist activity and home to the other 12 transferred terrorists. This transfer occurred just one month after President Obama announced he would maintain the number of U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan, despite previous pledges to downsize our presence, stating “the security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious.”

This latest relocation, the largest in his time in office, underscores the President’s blind desire to fulfill an ill-advised campaign promise with little regard for the safety of our troops working to bring stability to the region. He is, in effect, repopulating an already “precarious” region with known terrorists who have committed themselves to killing Americans and destroying our way of life.

Among this most recent class of Guantanamo transfers are three former Usama bin Laden bodyguards, an al-Qaida explosives trainer, a leader of a terrorist cell that provided weapons to al-Qaida forces, and an improvised explosive device (IED) maker associated with al-Qaida. There should be no doubt these are dangerous people.

In fact, the President’s Guantanamo Task Force agreed. Of these 15, the Task Force originally designated eight as “too dangerous to transfer,” six approved for transfer “only with appropriate security measures,” and one even labeled “prosecute here.”

Yet this transfer marks a curious reversal of previous threat assessments. After reviewing the cases, the Task Force’s Periodic Review Board (PRB) reversed the original classifications, justifying the reversal by calling the terrorists “relatively candid” or “mostly compliant” – not the strongest argument for sending a known terrorist away.

It doesn’t end there. The PRB has been uncharacteristically busy in the last few months, reviewing another 20 cases. We should expect the President to send more terrorists back to the Middle East before his tenure ends.

Transferring terrorists with the known risk of them returning to the fight – against our own troops no less – defies logic. As part of the Taliban Five investigation, I led a delegation of my colleagues to Guantanamo to see firsthand the threats to our country and the detention procedures carried out at the facility. It is unequivocally the best place to house these dangerous terrorists to ensure the safety and security of Americans here at home as well as those working to stabilize a volatile Middle East.

The Administration’s fast-tracking of these transfers puts American lives at risk and jeopardizes our national security. Americans deserve the safety and security Guantanamo affords, our national security requires a more thoughtful management of terrorist detention policy, and our troops need the assurance their Commander in Chief is devoted to them, not to a misguided campaign promise.

Rep. Hartzler represents Missouri’s 4th District. She serves on the House Armed Services, Agriculture, and Budget committees.