Ayotte presses Obama for answers on Guantanamo releases
By Evan Lips | June 9, 2016, 19:03 EST
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen Kelly Ayotte is calling on President Barack Obama to “tell the truth” about terrorist detainees who have “reportedly killed Americans and our allies” after being released from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
Guantanamo has been a frequent subject for Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican embroiled in a heated re-election battle amid challenges from both Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and a Republican challenger, Jim Rubens. In recent months, Ayotte has repeatedly hammered Obama over his policy of releasing Guantanamo detainees. On Thursday, she cited a Washington Post report indicating that 12 former detainees have played roles in attacks on Americans, resulting in “about a half-dozen” deaths.
The Post report said that while most of the attacks targeted military personnel, at least one civilian – a woman assigned to aid relief in 2008 in Afghanistan – has died as a result.
“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 in a prepared statement.
“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,” she said.
In April, Ayotte proposed a permanent ban on transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. while also suspending releases into the custody of other nations. That measure remains before a committee.
In a letter to Obama released Thursday, Ayotte said she has “serious concern” over the administration’s lack of transparency regarding the disposition of detainees.
“In May 2009, you said, ‘I ran for president promising transparency, and I meant what I said – and that’s why, whenever possible, my administration will make all information available to the American people so that they can make informed judgements and hold us accountable,’” Ayotte said in her letter.
Ayotte urged Obama to “honor your stated commitment to transparency by providing an unclassified response for the American people that states how many Americans and how many of our NATO partners have been killed by former Guantanamo detainees and which former detainees committed these terrorist acts.”
She cited reports of Americans dying at the hands of detainees and pointed out that since Pentagon officials first acknowledged the fact of such casualties in March, the Obama administration has released 11 additional detainees “with more than two dozen likely to be released in the coming months.”
“This is particularly troubling given the fact that more than 30 percent of the terrorists released from Guantanamo are confirmed or suspected of returning to terrorism and that 93 percent of the detainees who remained at Guantanamo as of late last year had been assessed as a high risk for a return to terrorism,” Ayotte noted. “Even worse, the administration has not provided Americans any reason to believe that most of these terrorists will even be detained in the recipient country or prevented from leaving there once released from Guantanamo.”
“Given these facts, it is likely that many of the detainees released by the administration will return to terrorism,” Ayotte said.
Read a full copy of Ayotte’s letter to Obama here: