A group of Republican senators introduced a resolution Thursday that would express the sense that the United States should detain captured ISIS operatives at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base military prison.
The resolution–backed by 15 senators, including two presidential candidates–comes just as President Obama endures criticism from Republicans for his controversial push to close Guantanamo Bay and move current dangerous detainees to prisons in the U.S. Obama sent a plan to close the prison to Congress last month, citing detention facilities in Colorado, Kansas, and South Carolina as possible sites to hold the terrorist detainees.
The resolution, introduced by Sen. Steve Daines (R., Mont.), expresses “the sense of Senate that individuals captured by the United States for supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS] should be detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” The legislation came on the heels of reports Wednesday that U.S. special forces operating in Iraq had recently captured the head of ISIS’ chemical weapons unit during a raid.
In January, a Republican congressman expressed worry to Defense Secretary Ash Carter that Obama’s policy on Guantanamo Bay may be forcing the Pentagon to release newly-captured terrorist suspects to the battlefield, which would allow them to resume terrorist activities.
“I am concerned that the Department of Defense is being forced to relinquish control of dangerous individuals captured by U.S. forces due to the president’s refusal to utilize Guantanamo Bay for new detention cases,” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.), the lawmaker, wrote in a letter to Carter.
If approved, the new resolution would affirm that ISIS members captured by U.S. forces during combat operations against the terror group would meet criteria for “continued detention” at Guantanamo Bay that were established after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. It would also hold that these individuals “must be detained outside the United States and its territories and should be transferred” to Guantanamo Bay.
The resolution is cosponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), both Republican presidential candidates, as well as Sens. Jerry Moran (Kans.) and Cory Gardner (Colo.), who recently led a trip to Guantanamo and have vehemently opposed the president’s plan.
Gardner said Thursday that the resolution would “pave the way” for the Pentagon to transfer captured ISIS fighters to Guantanamo.
“At a time when the Obama administration lacks a coherent strategy to defeat ISIL, it’s more important now than ever that we use all the tools at our disposal to fight terrorism,” Gardner said in a statement, using another name for ISIS. “Instead of closing Guantanamo Bay, the administration should transfer detained ISIL fighters to the facility. This resolution paves the way to do just that, while preventing grants of new rights to terrorists.”
Several of the senators emphasized their opposition to Obama’s plan to move dozens of detainees deemed too dangerous for release to U.S. prisons. The remainder of the 91 Guantanamo prisoners who have been approved for transfer will be moved to foreign countries.
“Jihadists who seek to kill Americans should not be brought to American soil. The security of our people, not political expediency, should guide decisions regarding prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Ensuring that our national security interests are being protected is only prudent, and Congress should step up and exercise its constitutional authority and detain ISIS fighters at Guantanamo Bay,” Cruz said in a statement.
Current law prohibits the military from moving Guantanamo detainees to American soil. Obama has urged Congress to work with him on the plan to close Guantanamo, though he has not ruled out using executive action to close the military prison.