If President Barack Obama manages to close Guantánamo prison, would-be GOP nominee Marco Rubio said Monday, a President Rubio would reopen it.
Rubio, talking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos after announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, said America needs an intelligence and detention center for interrogating suspected terrorists.
“They’re killed by a drone or they’re targeted in some other way,” he said. “But there’s tremendous value in capturing people that are enemy combatants and from them being able to gather actionable intelligence that can not only prevent attacks against the homeland and abroad but allow us to disrupt the cells they’ve created in different parts of the world.”
He added: “We’re no longer doing that as aggressively as we once did.”
Rubio, who serves on the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, toured the detention center in May 2012 as a freshman senator, and has a gallery of photos from the day trip on his Senate website.
The images include his visit to the prison and also a social visit he had with some Cuban residents who took up sanctuary on the base rather than move to the United States as many did, including his parents.
Rubio did not mention the U.S. Navy base in Cuba during his announcement of his candidacy at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.
Rubio said that he believes the next president will suffer from the blow-back of Obama’s Guantánamo releases, calling the recent history of releases “atrocious” and saying a “significant percentage have returned to the battlefield.”
The Bush administration released more than 530 Guantánamo detainees, 20.7 percent of whom, according to the Directorate of National Intelligence are “confirmed as re-engaging” — the intelligence community’s expression for recidivism — based on mostly secret intelligence. Obama released another 115, of whom 5.2 percent were confirmed recidivists.
The figure rises considerably for the Bush-era releases when factoring in those former detainees suspected as opposed to confirmed as recidivists, according to figures released last month that crunch statistics as of Jan. 15.
A total of 122 captives remain at Guantánamo, 56 of them cleared for transfer with security assurances. It is Obama administration policy not to add to the population of the prison.
Rubio was particularly critical of an Obama decision to send six cleared detainees to Uruguay, saying the Syrian, Palestinian and Tunisian men sent there for resettlement in December are not being effectively monitored and “present a danger in the short and long term for our country and the world.”
Rubio staked out the position on the issue of Guantánamo on the first day of his candidacy. Fellow GOP hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, both senators, have not outlined their campaign policies but have been critical of Obama’s handling of the Guantánamo issue.
Follow @CarolRosenberg on Twitter
The ABC News interview, here.