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Congressional War Vets Warn Biden Against Shuttering Gitmo

The main gate at the prison in Guantanamo at the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base
The main gate at the prison in Guantanamo at the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base / Getty Images
• February 1, 2021 4:59 am

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A group of Republican war veterans in Congress are pressuring the Biden administration to reconsider its plans to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison and relocate, potentially to the United States, the 40 terrorists currently being held in the facility.

"As veterans of the Global War on Terrorism, we have serious reservations about the Biden administration’s push to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp," the nine GOP lawmakers wrote in a letter sent Sunday night to newly installed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The Biden administration has been under pressure by antiwar activists to shutter the prison camp located at the U.S. naval station in Cuba. Biden has pledged to do just that, but has not explained how he will continue the prosecution of 40 terrorist leaders who still remain imprisoned, including the masterminds of the 9/11 terror attacks. Opponents of the closure warn that nearly 35 percent of the terrorists released from Gitmo have returned to the battlefield, where they continue to mobilize against U.S. and coalition forces in the region.

Representative Michael Waltz (R., Fla.), the first Green Beret to serve in Congress, and a group of eight other war veterans serving in Congress called the Biden administration’s efforts to shutter Gitmo dangerous and raised questions about a plan that they say could put dangerous terrorists back on the battlefield, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

"Many of us put our lives on the line to prevent these terrorists from ever returning to the battlefield. Some of us even sustained permanent wounds," wrote the lawmakers, which include Waltz and Reps. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), Steve Stivers (R. Ohio), Brad Wenstrup (R., Ohio), Ronny Jackson (R., Texas), Andrew Clyde (R., Ga.), Tony Gonzales (R., Texas), Guy Reschenthaler (R., Pa.), and Van Taylor (R., Texas). "Without law of war detention, we could be forced to release these dangerous individuals, allowing them to re-establish their networks and jeopardize American national security interests, along with the security interests of our allies."

The lawmakers warn the Biden administration against relocating these terrorists stateside, saying there "is no acceptable reason to bring terrorists to the homeland" and risk them being released on legal technicalities by an American court. Most of the terrorists being held at Gitmo were caught on the battlefield and likely could not be prosecuted by a typical court in the United States.

"It would be a mistake to risk acquittal of a known terrorist because of a prosecutorial error, a technicality, or a miscellaneous legal loophole," they wrote.

The Obama administration abandoned its bid to close Gitmo over concerns the terrorists would return to the battlefield and kill Americans. Most of the 40 detainees imprisoned in Gitmo have extensive weapons, explosives, and battlefield training.

Waltz, in an interview with the Free Beacon, said, "those that remain are the most hardened, the most unrepentant, and the most dangerous."

"These are the field generals, these are recruiters, the funders, the trainers, these are the enablers," he said. "This isn’t just one terrorist you’re releasing; this is someone who can create thousands and train thousands and fund thousands."