President Barack Obama misled Americans on the closing of Gitmo, or the Guantanamo Bay detention center, where foreign terrorists have been held since shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, House Speaker Paul Ryan declared in a statement today.
“The president is so desperate to close our detention facility at Guantanamo Bay before leaving office that his administration has resorted to misleading Congress,” Ryan said in the statement released on his website.
His point of contention with the president is that the Obama administration “knowingly approved” the transfer of Gitmo detainees to countries that lacked the facilities to prevent their escapes, hence their return to terrorism.
“Federal law requires” that Congress be informed whenever a Gitmo detainee be moved to another country, and that said country “can effectively mitigate the risk of these terrorists returning to the battlefield.”
Ryan noted that in March, Obama administration officials testified before Congress that they have never “knowingly” done so.
“It turns out that’s completely false,” Ryan said.
He linked to a press release from Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, which said that the testimony of Obama’s appointed Envoys “are not supported by facts.”
“According to the Obama administration’s own statistics,” Royce said, “more than 30 percent of former detainees released to other countries are confirmed – or suspected – to have returned to terrorist activities.”
Ryan also said that while “classified information” given to Congress confirmed that many countries to which Guantanamo detainees were sent were not prepared to do so, “the [Obama] administration approved these transfers” even though they had “clear knowledge of these deficiencies.”
“This is not just about misleading Congress—this is about our national security,” Ryan added. “This is about an administration more concerned with clinching a political victory than protecting the American people.”
Ryan noted that Royce has called on the Obama administration to correct the statements made by his Envoys in March.
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The Speaker has been a critic of President Obama’s plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, located on the eastern edge of Cuba. In February, Ryan accused Obama of “breaking the law” in his efforts to do so during a press conference captured by NBC News.
“And what boggles my mind,” he said, “is that the president is contemplating directing the military to knowingly break the law,” referring to a provision passed by Congress which states that Gitmo prisoners should not be let on U.S. soil.
Foreign Affairs Chair: Did Administration Mislead About Sending Gitmo Detainees to Countries That Could Handle Them? https://t.co/a6m2XP7IFw— Steven Wallace (@missouriwolfman) May 18, 2016
As of this posting, President Obama has not yet responded to Speaker Ryan’s statement.
President Obama has been a critic of the detention center. He made an issue out of it as early as 2007, when he first ran for president.
When asked by 60 Minutes if he planned on closing Gitmo as president, then-Senator Obama said, “Yes. I’ve said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that.”
In February, Obama set forth a plan to close Guantanamo, “but it already faces objections from Republicans and legal obstacles they have placed to transferring Guantanamo detainees to U.S. prisons,” said CNN.
“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values,” Obama said. “It undermines our standing in the world.”
What do you think? Did President Obama intentionally mislead Congress about closing Guantanamo Bay? Is Obama right that it should be closed?
[Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]