Three influential Republican lawmakers slammed the Obama administration’s handling of Abu Anas al-Libi, the suspected high-level al Qaeda operative captured by American commandos in Tripoli on Saturday, saying the terrorist now being held and interrogated on a U.S. Navy ship on the Mediterranean Sea should be quickly transferred to the detainee prison at Guantanamo Bay.
“He is on an American warship somewhere in the Mediterranean because the administration refuses to use Guantanamo Bay,” said Sen. Lindsay Graham, South Carolina Republican. “They’re treating him as an enemy combatant under the law of war, that is a good decision. The bad decision is not to put him in a permanent confinement facility that will allow long-term interrogation.”
His remarks, made during a press conference at the Capitol with fellow Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, came as the Obama administration announced the appointment Tuesday of a special envoy assigned to work on a plan for closing the Guantanamo military prison for terrorism suspects created shortly after 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The appointment of attorney Paul Lewis to the post signals the latest move in President Obama’s long-stymied effort to close the prison. Facing political pressure from human rights organizations that have criticized Guantanamo as an inhumane facility, Mr. Obama had pledged in 2009 to shutter the prison within one year.
Mr. Graham dismissed the appointment of Mr. Lewis as a political move Tuesday.
Calling the Guantanamo prison is “one of the best-run military jails in the history of warfare” and fully in compliance with Geneva Convention, the South Carolina Republican claimed that high-level U.S. counterterrorism operations — including the May 2011 raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — have depended on intelligence gleaned from interrogations of terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo.
“Contrary to popular belief,” Mr. Graham said, “what led to the bin Laden raid was not information elicited from torture in my view, it was from good, long, hard intelligence-gathering from Gitmo detainees over a period of time.”
Mrs. Ayotte asserted that “there hasn’t been support in Congress for closing Guantanamo, and if the choice is that we’re putting people on ships just because the political goal of the administration is to close Guantanamo, I don’t think that’s a good choice for protecting America.”
“Right now, Guantanamo is there, it’s a top-rate detention facility,” she said. “Until the Congress, working with the administration, makes a different decision, why wouldn’t you use that rather than using this temporary ship situation where you don’t have an opportunity to have the long-term interrogation of someone like al-Libi?”
“We are still, 10 years later, getting valuable information from those individuals,” he said. “So what are we going to do with the latest guy, who had very close ties to bin Laden, who has very close ties to [current al Qaeda leader Ayman] Zawahiri? We’re going to put him on ship. And I guess we’re going to keep him there for 60 days or so. And we’re going to take him to New York, we hear, to be incarcerated and tried.”
“Instead of taking him to Guantanamo, declaring him as an enemy combatant — and just like with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others at Guantanamo where we’re gathering information — as opposed to that we’re going to send him to an Article III court,” added Mr. Chambliss. “He is going to get lawyered up … He’s going to [be] silent and we’re not going to be able to gather any information from this individual.”