Yesterday I pointed out that the President’s war funding request contains up to $80 million to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The Administration says Guantanamo will be closed by next January. What they haven’t told us is what they plan to do with these killers once it closes. Well, Americans want some assurances that closing Guantanamo won’t make them less safe — and for good reason. Guantanamo currently houses some of the most dangerous men alive. These are men who are proud of the innocent lives they’ve taken and who want to return to terrorism.
One person who’s there, and who we don’t know what we’ll do with is Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. We captured him while he was planning follow-up attacks to 9/11, including plots to destroy a West Coast skyscraper and to smuggle explosives into New York. If we hadn’t captured him, he may have succeeded in launching the same kind of attack on the West Coast that he carried out on the East Coast. This is a man who brags about decapitating the American journalist Daniel Pearl, quote, “with my blessed right hand.” How does transferring Khalid Sheik Muhammad make the country safer?
Another person at Guantanamo that the Administration doesn’t know what it will do with in nine months is Ali Abd al-Azeez Ali, who served as a key lieutenant for KSM during the 9/11 operation. How does transferring or releasing him make the country safer?
Then there’s Abd al Rahim Al Nashiri. He was al Qaeda’s operations chief in the Arabian Peninsula and the mastermind behind the attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors in 2000. How does transferring or releasing him make the country safer?
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These are just three of the 240 terrorists that the Administration doesn’t know what to do with. The one thing they do know is that they claim they’re going to close Guantanamo in nine months, even though they can’t say yet whether the alternative is as safe and secure. All of this, despite the fact that after visiting Guantanamo for the first time recently, Attorney General Eric Holder said he was “impressed by the people who are presently running the camp, and that “the facilities there are good ones."
The Administration needs to tell the American people what it plans to do with these men if they close Guantanamo. Two years ago the Senate voted 94-3 against sending these killers to the United States. Foreign countries have thus far been unwilling to take them in any significant numbers. And even if countries were willing to take them, there’s an increasing probability that some of these murderers would return to the battlefield. The Defense Department recently confirmed that 18 former detainees had returned to the battlefield, and said that at least 40 more are suspected as having done so. And earlier this year, the Saudi government said that nearly a dozen Saudis who were released from Gitmo are believed to have returned to terrorism.
The Administration has made a priority of closing Guantanamo. But its first priority should be to assure the American people that the detainees at Gitmo will never again be able to harm innocent people.