Obama quietly releases Gitmo report amid news of Conn. shooting rampage

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

The White House released a required report on its anti-jihad operations Friday, showing the administration is holding 166 suspected terrorists in the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention camp, despite President Barack Obama’s 2008 promise to close the facility permanently.

“Combat-equipped forces … conduct secure detention operations for the approximately 166 detainees at Guantanamo Bay under Public Law 107-40 and consistent with principles of the law of war,” said the report.

The release came Friday afternoon and was buried under a wave of news about the brutal murder spree in a Connecticut school. (RELATED: 27 dead, including 20 children in Conn. elementary school shooting)

The administration tends to release unwelcome news on Fridays, partly because such announcements usually attract less attention during weekends.

Many progressive groups, including lawyers’ organizations and allied Islamic groups, have pressed officials to either release and deport the detained jihadis or send them to U.S. criminal courts for trial under civilian rules of evidence.

Those groups include the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, whose lawyers have received funding from leaders in the Virginia-based International Institute for Islamic Thought.

The institute shares many links to the international Muslim Brotherhood group, an Islamist group elections in Egypt and other countries to achieve the same ideological goals as jihadis in al-Qaida.

The Obama administration’s Friday letter also explained the president’s legal argument for the continuing military operations against the Afghanistan-based Taliban movement, and the various jihadi groups working under al-Qaida’s leadership.

“I am providing this supplemental consolidated report, prepared by my Administration and consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148), as part of my efforts to keep the Congress informed about deployments of U.S. Armed Forces equipped for combat,” the letter read.

“In support of these and other overseas operations, the United States has deployed combat-equipped forces to a number of locations in the U.S. Central, Pacific, European, Southern, and Africa Command areas of operation.”

However, the letter also showed the administration’s focus on the al-Qaida group — and its reluctance to threaten al-Qaida’s ideological and jihad allies in other territories, including Gaza, Mali, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq and India.

“The United States is committed to thwarting the efforts of al-Qaida and its associated forces to carry out future acts of international terrorism, and we have continued to work with our counterterrorism partners to disrupt and degrade the capabilities of al-Qaida and its associated forces,” the letter added.

The administration said it is also ready to strike jihadi groups outside the core al-Qaida group in Pakistan. But the White House is not ready to publicly explain those further attacks, which have been launched in Somalia, and may soon be conducted in Libya and its southern neighbor, Mali.

“As necessary, in response to the terrorist threat, I will direct additional measures against al-Qaida. … It is not possible to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployments of U.S. Armed Forces necessary to counter this terrorist threat to the United States,” the letter said.

“A classified annex to this report provides further information.”

Follow Neil on Twitter