New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte criticized the Obama administration for releasing nine suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and shipping them to Saudi Arabia.
The administration transferred nine Yemeni detainees to Saudi Arabia on Saturday as part of a deal struck before President Obama’s upcoming visit to the country. Obama has made closing down the military prison that has housed hundreds of suspected terrorists during the War on Terror a priority during his last year in office.
Ayotte protested the move, saying it has "unnecessarily put Americans at increased risk."
"With the release announced this weekend of nine Yemeni detainees to Saudi Arabia, the administration continues to dangerously release terrorists from Guantanamo and unnecessarily put Americans at increased risk in order to fulfill a misguided campaign promise—all while refusing to level with the American people regarding the detainees’ terrorist risks, activities, and affiliations," she said in a Monday release.
Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has worked to preempt Obama’s plans to shutter the base and transfer suspected terrorists to prisons in the United States. She re-introduced legislation earlier this month that would prevent the Obama administration from transferring detainees to the United States or overseas. She tried to pass similar legislation in 2015, but the bill did not make it out of committee.
"Continuing to release these dangerous terrorists is reckless and poses a serious threat to our troops, our allies, and our country," Ayotte said in a release.
Many freed Gitmo prisoners have returned to terrorist activities when they are released—even those who have been transferred to overseas detention facilities. The Pentagon estimates that 30 percent of released Gitmo prisoners are confirmed or suspected terrorists today.
Ayotte also co-sponsored the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Protection Act in February. That bill would force the White House to get Congressional approval before modifying the use or lease of Gitmo.
"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 is facing a tight reelection campaign against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. She has made foreign policy a centerpiece of the race given Hassan’s inexperience in handling international issues.
Hassan attempted to address those concerns by telling the Concord Monitor editorial board that she "keeps up on international issues by reading news, reviewing reports and consulting with experts."
"She pushed for the country to take care of the ‘world’s most vulnerable people’ and also ensure safety of American citizens. But Hassan offered few policy details about how to achieve those goals," the Monitor wrote.
Hassan is not the first candidate for elected office who has relied on media to craft foreign policy positions.
"Well, I watch the shows," GOP candidate Donald Trump said in August 2015 when he was asked about the source of his military advice.
Hassan began her campaign by saying she was open to the idea of closing Gitmo, but later flip-flopped on the issue when President Obama debuted his plan. Her campaign did not return a request for comment.