Senate Republicans Seize Upon Paris Attacks to Thwart Gitmo Closure
'If you look at the security situation that we’re facing around the world right now, now is not the time to be emptying Guantánamo,' says New Hampshire senator
On the heels of protests pressing for the closure of the offshore military-run prison, key Senate Republicans on Tuesday called for a "time out" on releasing detainees from Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, citing last week's attacks in Paris.
If passed, the "Detaining Terrorists to Protect America Act of 2015" would severely curtail President Barack Obama's ability to make good on his campaign promise to close the controversial facility.
Legislation introduced by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John McCain (Ariz.), Richard Burr (N.C.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) would prohibit for two years the transfer to the United States of detainees designated medium- or high-risk. It would also ban transfers to Yemen, where dozens of the 127 remaining Guantánamo detainees are from. On Wednesday, Yemen's al Qaeda branch claimed responsibility for last week's massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
The Associated Press reports that the GOP bill "would repeal current law that has allowed the administration to transfer prisoners to foreign countries and reduce the population at Guantanamo to 127. The bill would prohibit transfers of terror suspects to foreign countries if there has been a confirmed case where an individual was transferred from Guantanamo and engaged in any terrorist activity."
"It’s clear that we need a timeout so that we do not reconfront the terrorists that we had captured and are currently in Guantánamo," said Ayotte, of New Hampshire.
"It’s one thing to make a campaign promise," she said at a news conference on Tuesday. "But if you look at the security situation that we’re facing around the world right now, now is not the time to be emptying Guantánamo with no plan for how and where these individuals are going to go, no assurances of security of those who have been released."
According to Politico:
Not all of the Republicans at Tuesday’s news conference have the same views on Guantánamo—and McCain, the new chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who has backed closing the prison, is seen as Obama’s best potential Republican ally on the issue.
Still, the Arizona senator slammed the administration for failing to present a plan to close Guantánamo and move the detainees who are too dangerous to be released, throwing his support behind the bill that would tie Obama’s hands on Guantánamo.
"This administration never presented to the Congress of the United States a concrete or coherent plan" on how to handle the detainee issue, McCain said.
Twenty-one detainees have been transferred to other countries since mid-November.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it would be "very, very difficult" for Obama to fulfill his campaign promise of closing Gitmo without help from Congress.