A senior House Republican urged President Obama on Tuesday to “immediately halt” the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees, citing a new intelligence report that found recently released prisoners were returning to terrorism.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce wrote in a letter to Obama that his administration was knowingly transferring detainees to countries that lack the ability to prevent terrorists from returning to the “battlefield,” the Hill reported.
“The committee has just received a troubling new report from the intelligence community indicating that former detainees recently transferred out of Guantanamo Bay by your administration are attempting to return to terrorism,” Royce wrote.
“Your efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay cannot come at the expense of U.S. national security,” he continued.
The Defense Department last week transferred four detainees to Saudi Arabia and another one to Cabo Verde in December. It is unclear from Royce’s letter whether these prisoners had attempted to return to terrorism.
The White House told Congress last month it intended to transfer 17 or 18 detainees from the military prison before the close of the Obama administration on Jan. 20. If the administration is successful, 41 or 42 prisoners would remain in Guantanamo under President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump warned the president against pursuing additional transfers before he takes office.
“There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield,” Trump recently wrote on Twitter.
Royce, who copied Trump on the letter, noted the case of former detainee Tariq al-Sawah, who was transferred to Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2016 despite accusations that he was an al Qaeda explosives expert who designed devices used to attack U.S. targets.
“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,” Royce wrote.
In July, the State Department announced it had added a former Guantanamo detainee to the U.S. list of designated terrorists in connection with the suicide bombings at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport that killed 42 people.