- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Citing fresh intelligence that freed Guantanamo Bay detainees are returning to terrorism, a top House Republican called on President Obama Tuesday to halt immediately any more releases from the prison.

In a letter to the president, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Edward R. Royce, California Republican, said the administration knows that it’s transferring detainees to countries such as Uruguay that have little ability to prevent the terrorists’ return to the battlefield.

“Your efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay cannot come at the expense of U.S. national security,” Mr. Royce said. “In light of this dangerous revelation, I again ask that you immediately halt all transfers from Guantanamo Bay and take steps to secure former detainees who pose a threat to U.S. national security.”

Mr. Royce said his panel has received “a troubling new report” from U.S. intelligence agencies indicating that recently released detainees from Gitmo, located in Cuba, “are attempting to return to terrorism.”

“The committee’s ongoing review has found that some recipient countries lack a combination of the political will, legal framework or institutional capability to monitor detainees,” Mr. Royce told the president. “Shockingly, your administration knowingly transferred individuals to these countries after receiving such assessments, showing a systematic disregard for the work of intelligence professionals.”

Mr. Royce said about 33 percent of all detainees released or transferred from Gitmo during the Bush and Obama administrations have returned to the fight. The Obama White House puts that figure at 21 percent during the Bush administration and 5 percent under Mr. Obama.

“Considering that we have released 183 detainees during President Obama’s time in office, a little back-of-the-envelope math would indicate that our percentage is much better, and it’s a result of the reforms that President Obama instituted on his first day in office,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. It wasn’t clear whether the statistics cited for Mr. Obama’s tenure include terrorists killed since their release.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which tracks recidivism among former detainees, said in September that nine of 161 inmates released during Mr. Obama’s presidency had returned to the battlefield. At least 11 others were suspected of returning to terrorist activities.

The administration released four Yemeni detainees last week to Saudi Arabia, leaving the prison’s population at 55. Mr. Obama has been trying to close the prison since his first day in office, arguing that the infamous facility serves as a recruiting tool for terrorist networks to foment more resentment against the U.S.

Lawmakers in both parties have thwarted Mr. Obama’s efforts to close the prison, saying that transferring detainees to prisons on the mainland U.S. could make targets of the communities where the prisons are located. President-elect Donald Trump has said he’ll keep Gitmo open and send more captured terrorists there.

Mr. Royce cited the administration’s transfer of six detainees in December 2014 to Uruguay, a small country in South America, as an example of reckless national security policy.

“By their own law, the Uruguayan government is prohibited from monitoring, surveilling, or imposing restrictions on the former detainees because of their refugee status,” he told the president. “Moreover, the government publicly declared that it would not prevent the detainees from traveling outside the country. These facts were known before the transfers were made. As a result, one detainee has traveled numerous times to neighboring countries including Venezuela, a country in chaos.”

He also expressed concern about the transfer in January 2016 of bomb-making expert Tariq al-Sawah to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Balkans.

“According to recent data, Bosnia has the highest number of foreign fighters per capita in the world,” Mr. Royce said. “It also has a 63 percent unemployment rate, with only Bosnian citizens allowed to work. Yet the administration transferred al-Sawah — a man with a highly dangerous and marketable skill — to the country with no citizenship or ability to obtain legitimate employment. Again, these were facts known prior to his transfer.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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