Buchanan Votes to Keep Terrorists at Gitmo Prison
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan voted today to prevent the transfer of any terrorist from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
House passage of the bill arrives one month after 15 enemy combatants at the prison were moved from Guantanamo Bay to the United Arab Emirates, the single-largest detainee transfer since President Obama took office. The prison currently houses 61 terrorists.
“These terrorists are enemy combatants, not common criminals,” Buchanan said. “The House sent a stern warning to the president today: closing Gitmo is a threat to national security. The White House should be focused on keeping these hardened criminals at the maximum security military prison where they can do no further harm to Americans.”
Specifically, the Guantanamo Detainee Transfer Prohibition Act bars federal funds from being used for the transfer or release of any detainee held at Guantanamo Bay to a foreign country through Jan. 21, 2017 or until the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 (NDAA) is signed into law by the president.
President Obama has made it a priority to close Gitmo before he left office, and since January has accelerated efforts to downsize the prison’s population. Earlier this year Obama also said he wants to find “a secure location in the United States to hold remaining detainees.”
However, under the NDAA of 2016, signed into law by President Obama himself, the transfer of Gitmo detainees onto U.S. soil is specifically prohibited. The NDAA also bans the use of federal funds to close the military prison in Cuba or to build any facility in the U.S. to house these enemy combatants.
The White House formally issued a veto threat on Tuesday for the House bill.
Yesterday, the U.S. government confirmed that in the first six months of 2016, two of the 17 militants released from the detention camp returned to fighting. Approximately one-third of all released Gitmo detainees are either confirmed or suspected of returning to terrorist activities, according to a Director of National Intelligence report.
“Emptying the prison can bolster the ranks of groups like ISIS, which are intent on carrying out attacks on the West,” Buchanan said. “We should not transfer these dangerous terrorists to the U.S., release them, or move them to countries overseas where their escape or early release is possible.”
Among those still held at Gitmo include a former bodyguard for Osama bin Laden as well as the mastermind responsible for planning the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Also imprisoned is Mohammad Mani Ahmad al-Qahtani, who would have been the 20th hijacker had he not been denied entry into the country a month earlier.