Pentagon releases 15 more Gitmo detainees
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has approved the release of 15 detainees from the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United Arab Emirates, a move derided Monday night by a leading member of Congress as reckless.
Rep. Ed Royce, the California Republican who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the released detainees "hardened terrorists" who will be a threat for years.
"In its race to close Gitmo, the Obama administration is doubling down on policies that put American lives at risk," Royce said in a statement. "Once again, hardened terrorists are being released to foreign countries where they will be a threat."
The Pentagon, in a statement, said an inter-agency review board considered their potential threat to security and unanimously approved six of the 15 for release, A consensus was reached on release of the remaining nine. There are 61 detainees remaining at Guantanamo.
According to the Pentagon, the 15 prisoners are Abd al-Muhsin Abd al-Rab Salih al-Busi, Abd al-Rahman Sulayman, Mohammed Nasir Yahi Khussrof Kazaz, Abdul Muhammad Ahmad Nassar al-Muhajari, Muhammad Ahmad Said al-Adahi, Abdel Qadir al-Mudafari, Mahmud Abd Al Aziz al-Mujahid, Saeed Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah Sarem Jarabh, Mohammed Kamin, Zahar Omar Hamis bin Hamdoun, Hamid al-Razak (aka Haji Hamidullah), Majid Mahmud Abdu Ahmed, Ayub Murshid Ali Salih, Obaidullah, and Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah.
Six of the 15 — al-Busi, Sulayman, Kazaz, al-Muhajari, al-Adahi, and al-Mudafari — were unanimously recommended for release by the inter-agency Guantanamo Review Task Force, the Pentagon said.
The other nine were recommended for release by the periodic review boards monitoring Guantanamo prisoners, the Pentagon said.
When President Obama took office in 2009, there were 242 detainees still in the Guantanamo Bay prison, down from a high of almost 700. That number has dropped as the Pentagon has transferred lower-risk detainees to other countries — meaning that the prisoners who remain tend to be considered higher security risks.
Obama earlier this year announced a plan to close down the facilities at Guantanamo, arguing that the keeping them open was "contrary to our values."
The plan included transferring detainees to other countries, and imprisoning those who could not be moved to existing facilities in South Carolina, Kansas and Colorado or at new prisons at military bases.
Civil libertarians applauded the move.
"This is a welcome advance in the administration’s effort to close Guantanamo," said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project. "As the number of men at Guantanamo dwindles, so does any rationale for keeping the detention camp open. It’s also critically important for the Obama administration to end what Guantanamo represents, which is the policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial."
The administration estimates that it would cost $290 million to $475 million for the Pentagon to renovate an existing state or federal prison, which would be dedicated to holding only detainees from Guantanamo. The Pentagon estimates housing the detainees in the United States could save $65 million to $85 million a year, recouping construction costs in about five years.
Law prohibits the president from transferring the Guantanamo Bay detainees to American soil where there are only a handful of maximum-security prisons deemed appropriate to house them.
Located on the eastern edge of Cuba, the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay has housed prisoners taken captive in war on terror since 2002. Since it exists on a base on Cuban soil but held by the United States under a 113-year-old lease, the prisoners are in what some human rights organizations call a "legal black hole."
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