Sen. Ron Johnson introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act Tuesday that would require the Obama administration be transparent when releasing suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The amendment would require the administration provide an unclassified notice to Congress detailing the specifics of when a detainee is transferred to a foreign country. The amendment would additionally require that any memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and the foreign country receiving the detainee be given to Congress, unclassified. If classification is required, the secretary of defense would have to submit a detailed, unclassified report as to why.
Information included in the requirement would include basic details, such as the detainee’s biographical data. Additionally, more nuanced information such as how many detainees have been transferred to a certain foreign country, how many of those detainees have reengaged in terrorism and an explanation from the secretary of defense as to why that country was chosen for the detainee’s release would be required.
“The American people deserve to know when and where President Obama plans to transfer the remaining 80 detainees at Guantanamo Bay,” Johnson told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Information regarding these transfers should be public, not hidden by unnecessary classification.”
According to a 2016 report by Director of National Intelligence’s office, 204 out of 676 former Guantanamo detainees are confirmed, or suspected, to have reengaged in terrorism or insurgency.
Currently, the law states that the Obama administration is required to notify Congress of Guantanamo detainee transfers. That said, the administration classifies these notices before they are sent to Congress, thus limiting their availability. Johnson’s amendment aims to make the process open, giving the American public the ability to scrutinize the transfers.
Sen. Jerry Moran accused the Obama administration in March of notifying detainees of their transfer before Congress, and has vowed to tighten legislation to ensure Congress is the first to know of any transfers.
The Obama administration has maintained that closing Guantanamo is crucial to U.S. national security. In his March testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Pentagon special envoy for Guantanamo Closure Paul Lewis said the facility “weakens our national security by damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, draining resources and providing violent extremists with a propaganda tool.”
The Obama administration presented its plan to close the detention facility in February, and has accelerated transfers of detainees abroad. Several of the detainees released this year were designated “high risk” and have a well-known history of terrorism. Currently, 80 detainees remain in the detention facility.
“The detainees remaining in the Guantanamo Bay facility are the worst of the worst, and the threat they pose must be addressed seriously and transparently,” said Johnson.
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