The Hill CongressBlog
Ever since January, when President Obama announced his decision to close the Guantanamo Bay Terrorist Detention Center, I have been vocal in my concerns about a potential plan to transfer or release detainees to the United States. As a Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, this strikes me as ill-advised.
The prisoners we are talking about are people like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks – dangerous killers who do not know the bounds of decency or law. They are not ordinary criminals; they are declared enemies of the United States who were engaging in direct action against us.
In March, the President acknowledged the difficulty in determining the level of danger posed by certain prisoners. To that end, I expected the Administration’s assurance that they have a plan to keep such truly dangerous people from threatening the security of our communities and overall national security if and when these detainees reach the United States. But a plan isn’t forthcoming.
In May, I pressed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for answers regarding the transfer and perhaps even release of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. Secretary Napolitano indicated that she would work toward holding classified briefing in the future, but one has yet to be scheduled.
Just yesterday, I spoke with Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Lute about the risks associated with transferring or releasing terrorists into the United States given the Department’s acknowledged concern about sleeper cells within our country. I still have not received specifics.
Since February, many of my fellow Committee members have requested Chairman Bennie Thompson grant us permission to visit Guantanamo Bay on a bipartisan Committee delegation to observe the facility for ourselves. The Defense Department has granted us permission to go – but the Majority has not.
For now, I remain convinced that Guantanamo Bay is better suited to hold these detainees than any facility, even a military base, in the United States. We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars to add facilities at Guantanamo Bay specifically to handle these detainees. It’s surrounded by minefields and protected by the best security force in the world, the United States Marine Corps.
I, for one, sleep well at night knowing that these dangerous terrorists are detained at Guantanamo Bay instead of somewhere in the United States.