A pair of GOP House members introduced a bill to prohibit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay into the United States after the Biden administration announced plans to begin working toward closing the controversial naval prison earlier this month.
If passed, the bill, released on Tuesday by Reps. Jeff Duncan and Nancy Mace of South Carolina, would ensure that no Defense Department funds “may be used to transfer, release, or assist in the transfer of or release” of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any other alleged terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay “to or within the United States, its territories, or possessions.”
Earlier this month, National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said the Biden NSC was undertaking a process “to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantanamo.” She said the NSC “will work closely with the Departments of Defense, State, and Justice to make progress toward closing the GTMO facility” in “close consultation” with Congress.
“Naval Station Guantanamo Bay has long housed the most dangerous enemy combatants captured by our United States Military. It is commonsense policy that we keep these terrorists far away from American citizens and out of our judicial system. Unfortunately, President Biden has signaled his intent to close the Guantanamo Bay facility, which could lead to the transfer or release of the dangerous GITMO prisoners to the United States,” Duncan said, adding that “no state should become a dumping ground for terrorists.”
Under the Obama administration, the Navy’s Consolidated Brig in Charleston was looked at as a potential site to transfer some Guantanamo Bay detainees to, though the proposal was met with opposition by South Carolina leaders. The Pentagon also looked at the maximum-security prison at Fort Leavenworth, but Kansas politicians were similarly opposed to the idea.
“Moving some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world to U.S. soil is unacceptable and irresponsible,” Mace said Tuesday, adding, “any plan to transfer these prisoners to the U.S., such as the Obama-era proposal to transfer the prisoners to the Charleston Brig, is unacceptable. These terrorists are the worst of the worst and should not be held on American soil.”
In January, Biden’s then-nominee for defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, said in written testimony that “I believe it is time for the detention facility at Guantanamo to close its doors” and said he would direct his staff to “develop a path forward for the remaining 40 detainees at the facility.”
Former President Barack Obama promised to close Guantanamo while running for office in 2008, and on his second day in office, he signed an executive order to close it within a year, though his efforts were widely opposed by the House and Senate from 2009 onward. The opposition from Congress, among other hurdles, meant he didn’t deliver on the promise.
Then-candidate Donald Trump promised in February 2016 that “we’re going to load it up with some bad dudes,” which he failed to do as president. In January 2018, Trump did sign an executive order asking then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to keep the prison open.
In June, Biden’s campaign told the New York Times that Biden “continues to support closing the detention center” and claimed the prison “undermines American national security by fueling terrorist recruitment and is at odds with our values as a country.”
Approximately 780 people have been detained since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. It is believed 40 suspected terrorists remain. In the nearly two decades since 19 al Qaeda terrorists crashed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center buildings, the side of the Pentagon, and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people, the five men believed to be responsible for the planning and execution of the plot have yet to face a trial.
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