Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) asked the Obama administration on Thursday to provide answers regarding freed Guantanamo Bay enemy combatants returning to terrorism.
Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to the White House on Thursday demanding that the administration release documents related to terrorist activities from once-imprisoned Guantanamo Bay inmates. The request came in the wake of a USA Today report estimating that about a half dozen American citizens have been killed by terrorists returning to the battlefield from the naval installation on Cuban soil.
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"Americans have a right to know how many of our NATO partners and fellow citizens have been killed by former Guantanamo detainees and who killed them, and I reject any suggestion that it would jeopardize intelligence sources or methods to provide an unclassified response to these simple questions," Ayotte said in the letter.
The letter echoes a May request from Ayotte for such information. The Department of Defense responded to those queries, but the material was classified in such a manner that Ayotte’s staff was unable to review them. The freshman senator said that the administration is keeping the Senate and the American public in the dark on the activities of the 30 percent of enemy combatants who return to terrorism following their release.
"There appears to be a consistent and concerted effort by the administration to prevent Americans from knowing the truth regarding the terrorist activities and affiliations of past and present Guantanamo detainees," Ayotte said.
The White House did not respond to Washington Free Beacon request for comment.
President Obama put the military prison in the spotlight in February when he pledged to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to shutter the facility. The administration has continued to release inmates from the prison and return them to their home countries where some have been forced to stand trial. Senate Republicans have vowed to fight the effort to close the military prison.
Ayotte co-sponsored a bill that would prevent the White House from transferring inmates to federal prisons on American soil or to other prisons overseas. The legislation, called the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Protection Act, would also force the White House to seek Senate approval in order to take transfer or close the Cuban base.
"The president may not modify, terminate, abandon, or transfer the lease with the Government of Cuba by which the United States acquired 45-square miles of land and waters that currently contain Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unless the president notifies Congress … and after such notification, Congress enacts a law authorizing that modification, termination, abandonment, or transfer," the bill says.
Ayotte said in her letter to President Obama that the administration should work to declassify the documents, so that lawmakers and the public can make a well-informed decision about the future of the base. USA Today’s revelation that as many as a dozen prisoners freed before 2009 took part in attacks that claimed the lives of American and NATO soldiers, as well as an American civilian, made the request all the more urgent, she wrote.
"In light of the fact that Americans and our NATO partners apparently have been killed by former Guantanamo detainees and in light of the impending release of additional dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo, the serious public interest in the timely declassification and disclosure of this information is clear," she said.
The administration said that it has seen Ayotte's letter and plans to respond. A national security spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon over email that no Gitmo inmates released since 2009 have been linked to deadly attacks on American soldiers or civilians. Nearly 20 of 144 released inmates have returned or are suspected of re-engaging in the War on Terror, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"Due to the classified nature of much of this the information, it remains difficult to discuss specific cases in great detail, but, again, we are committed to being as honest and forthcoming with the American people about our safe and responsible approach to Guantanamo detainee transfers, including about possible detainee reengagement in terrorist activities," the spokesman said.