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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Obama’s Dangerous, Incomplete and Unlawful Gitmo Proposal

February 29, 2016
Weekly Columns

As the president’s time in office grinds to an end, I am disappointed—but not surprised—that he continues to advocate for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Campaign promise or not, the dangerous terrorists at Guantanamo do not belong on American soil. Unfortunately, the president’s latest insistence on closing the terrorist detention center is the same tired plan he’s unsuccessfully pushed for the past seven years. And just like the last seven years, his latest proposal is dangerous, contrary to federal law and deeply unpopular with both parties in Congress and with the American people.

In discussing the role of Guantanamo and why the president’s plan is ill-conceived, it is important to understand how and why it came to be a holding place for terrorists in the first place. Located on the southeastern tip of Cuba, Guantanamo (also called “Gitmo”) has been used by the United States as a naval base for more than a century. However, it wasn’t until after the despicable acts of terror on 9/11 that Gitmo also became the site for a terrorist detention center. Since 2002, hundreds of suspected and known terrorists have been detained there; among them is the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. In addition, individuals are detained at Gitmo if they are “enemy combatants” captured on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan, or if they have confirmed ties to Islamic terrorist groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. These are the worst of the worst.

Moving detainees to prisons in communities across our country is a bad idea. Not only is there concern that their imprisonment on American soil could lead to terrorist acts of retaliation, but there are legitimate concerns that the communities could become targets for future terrorist events. Considering that the 91 remaining Gitmo detainees are thought to be the most dangerous, including 46 that are designated too dangerous for transfer, I agree that the concerns held by many Americans are not unfounded. According to a report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, it is believed that 30 percent of former Gitmo detainees who have been released have returned to the battlefield. In fact, around the same time that President Obama announced his Gitmo closure plan, it was reported that a former detainee was a suspect in an ISIS-inspired attack in Spain. 

Beyond posing unnecessary danger to American communities, the president’s Gitmo plan lacks necessary detail and substance Congress specifically requested, including how to implement and pay for his plan. But more importantly, his incomplete plan is against current law. Since a Democrat-led Congress defunded his executive order to close Gitmo in 2009, President Obama has signed into law language in the National Defense Authorization Act and other legislation that prohibits the transfer of terror suspects out of the prison. Even the Obama Administration’s own Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently acknowledged the law does not allow Gitmo detainees to be transferred to the United States. 

For me and for most Americans, the president’s plan to import terrorists into the United States is incomprehensible. The proposal he recently laid out is unlawful, unpopular, unwise and highly unlikely to ever be approved by the Congress of the United States.