Legislation Introduced to Force Obama to Release Public Info on
Guantanamo Bay Transfers

Amendment to defense bill would mandate unclassified notice before prisoners are moved to foreign countries

The entrance to Camp 5 and Camp 6 at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay detention center / AP
June 7, 2016

Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Tuesday that would require the defense secretary, in consultation with the secretary of state, to give Congress unclassified notice of plans to transfer detainees currently held at the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

The unclassified notice would need to specify the name, country of origin, and country of destination for the individual detainee planned to be transferred 30 days before the transfer occurs. Additionally, it would need to stipulate the count of ex-detainees transferred to the country of destination in question who are known or believed to have reengaged in terrorism after their transfer.

Finally, the defense secretary would be required to tell Congress why the particular country of destination was chosen and disclose other countries that might receive transfers.

"The American people deserve to know when and where President Obama plans to transfer the remaining 80 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. As of January 2016, 204 out of 676 transferred Guantanamo detainees—almost one third of those transferred—were confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities," Johnson told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement.

"Information regarding these transfers should be public, not hidden by unnecessary classification. The detainees remaining in the Guantanamo Bay facility are the worst of the worst, and the threat they pose must be addressed seriously and transparently."

While the administration already informs Congress regarding planned transfers, those notices are classified.

The amendment is one of several provisions that could be approved in the annual defense legislation that would create hurdles for President Obama as he continues his efforts to close Guantanamo.

If passed, the legislation would take effect at the start of fiscal year 2017, during the final months of Obama’s presidency. The Obama administration has fast-tracked its efforts to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo and shutter the detention facility in order to fulfill the president’s campaign promise.

Republicans in Congress have opposed Obama’s plan to close the prison, which would also involve moving detainees not approved for transfer to foreign countries to a prison inside the United States. However, current law bars the military from moving Guantanamo prisoners to U.S. detention facilities.

Of the remaining prisoners at Guantanamo, 30 have already been cleared for release to other countries. The Associated Press, citing an anonymous U.S. official, reported this week that most of the detainees slated for transfer will leave in June and July.

The Obama administration has accelerated transfers despite evidence from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence showing that nearly 18 percent of former Guantanamo prisoners have been confirmed to have reengaged in terrorism and nearly 13 percent are suspected of doing so.

One of the ex-Guantanamo prisoners found to have rejoined terrorism is Ibrahim al-Qosi, who was released by the administration to Sudan in 2012 and recently emerged as a leading member of al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

The Senate’s version of the NDAA, which is on the floor for a debate this week, already includes language that extends the ban on using federal funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the United States, as well as other prohibitions related to the military prison.

Sens. James Lankford (R., Okla.) and Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) also introduced an amendment last week to the annual defense bill that would cut funding to foreign countries that lose control of ex-Guantanamo detainees in order to better ensure that they don’t reengage terrorism.

The annual legislation, if passed, would complicate Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo. However, the president has not ruled out using executive power to accomplish the goal before he leaves office.

Update 3:35 p.m.: The White House issued a statement criticizing a number of provisions included in the NDAA on Tuesday, including those related to Guantanamo Bay.

"The bill continues unwarranted restrictions regarding detainees at Guantanamo Bay and adds new provisions, attempting to dictate how the Executive Branch conducts foreign policy and requiring the disclosure of sensitive national security information," the Office of Management said in a statement. The president’s senior advisers would recommend he veto the bill in its current form, the White House said.

Published under: Guantanamo