Ayotte sharpens attacks on Obama over Guantanamo detainees
By Evan Lips | April 11, 2016, 16:50 EDT
WASHINGTON – New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte is ramping up her criticism of President Barack Obama’s decision to release radical Islamic terror suspects from the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, proposing a ban on the transfer of detainees to prisons on American soil as well as the suspension of any further releases until September 2017.
The Nashua Republican, who is faces a tough re-election battle this year, has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s efforts to release prisoners from Guantanamo and its desire to close the facility altogether. Last week, Ayotte announced she would block Obama’s nominee to become the Pentagon’s top lawyer until the release of a promised report on the status of detainees held in Guantanamo. Ayotte’s battle could prove pivotal for her party’s efforts to keep control of the Senate.
The freshman senator’s move on Guantanamo came after the transfers of detainees Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby, 55, and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Bakr Mahjour Umar, about 44, to the government of Senegal in Africa. Neither man has been charged with a crime and both have been in custody for almost 14 years, according to the Associated Press.
“As directed by the president’s Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of the case,” a U.S. Department of Defense statement noted on April 4 about its determination to transfer Ghereby.
Both transferred detainees were subject to a “security review” that ultimately determined that continued “law of war detention does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States,” according to the Pentagon announcement.
The two ex-detainees are Libyan nationals and served as explosives experts for an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group, according to classified Pentagon documents obtained by WikiLeaks.org and detailed in New York Times reports. Ghereby, according to documents, “has been uncooperative and has provided no new information since 2004” and “is assessed to be a HIGH risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests and allies.”
Khalif, according to the internal documents cited by the Times, “has been mostly compliant with guard force and staff but has threatened to kill U.S. personnel on several occasions.” It said he withheld useful intelligence, instructed fellow detainees in explosives and was likely to immediately rejoin al-Qaeda if released without adequate rehabilitation and supervision.
Despite reengagement of former #Gitmo detainees, Obama administration has released two al Qaeda explosives trainers
— Kelly Ayotte (@KellyAyotte) April 4, 2016
Ayotte’s proposed bill would also prohibit the administration from closing the Guantanamo prison.
“Unfortunately, this administration seems more interested in releasing terrorists and bringing the remainder to the United States in order to close Guantanamo and fulfill a misguided and dangerous campaign promise,” Ayotte said in a statement. “My legislation would suspend the administration’s dangerous releases that have allowed terrorists to return to the battlefield and permanently prevent the administration from bringing Guantanamo terrorists to the United States.”
The Guantanamo issue has also managed to seep its way into Ayotte’s election campaign. In February, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Ayotte “called out” New Hampshire Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running to replace Ayotte in the Senate, for her continued refusal to take a stance on the matter.
In October, the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper reported that Hassan “would consider closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison, but only in a context that ensures the protection of U.S. citizens.”
Ayotte has also claimed that Hassan has accepted campaign donations from at least two law firms that have represented Guantanamo detainees. Last month, Hassan’s campaign pounced on federal finance receipts showing that Ayotte has also received funds from law firms representing detainees.
This month’s release of two detainees brings the overall population at Guantanamo to 89, according to the Pentagon statement.