McConnell: Guantanamo: Republican Concerns Are Real

‘The administration needs to explain its actions to the American people and their representatives in Congress. And Republicans will continue to ask these questions until they do’

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding Guantanamo and the lack of response from the administration on their intentions for the detainees:

“For the past several weeks, Republicans in Congress have expressed serious concerns about the administration’s insistence on closing Guantanamo before it has a safe alternative. “These concerns are rooted, among other things, in the fact that roughly 10 percent of the detainees who’ve already been released from Guantanamo have returned to the field of battle. These concerns are rooted in the fact that the administration has talked about releasing some of these trained terrorists into the United States - not into detention facilities, but directly into our communities. These concerns are rooted in the fact that Americans like the fact that we haven’t been attacked at home since 9/11, and they don’t want the terrorists at Guantanamo back on the battlefield or in their backyards.

“These concerns are real … and yet all we’ve gotten from the administration on this issue is silence.

“Five weeks ago, Senator Sessions sent the Attorney General a letter asking what legal authority the administration has to release trained terrorists into the United States. He sent another letter asking the same question earlier this week. In response, he’s gotten silence. Senator McCain and Senator Graham wrote an op-ed yesterday asking serious questions about what the administration plans to do with the detainees it releases or transfers from Guantanamo.

“We haven’t heard anything in reply.

“These aren’t academic questions we’re asking. When Americans hear about a former detainee named Said Ali al-Shihri, who was last seen serving as one of Al Qaeda’s top deputies in Yemen, calling on his Somali comrades to increase attacks on American ships, they have reason to be concerned. When Americans hear about a former detainee who was last seen serving as the Taliban's operational commander in southern Afghanistan, they have reason to be concerned. These are just a couple of the men previously deemed safe for transfer. They're living proof that the dangers of closing Guantanamo without a safe alternative are real. Yet all we get from the administration is a request for funds to close Guantanamo.

“House Democrats agree that providing a blank check to close Guantanamo doesn’t make sense.

“But now Senate Democrats are reportedly supportive of a plan to appropriate funds to close Guantanamo before we know where these terrorists will end up.

“Does the administration really think Congress will appropriate these funds before it presents us with a plan that keeps the American people as safe as Guantanamo has?

“The administration needs to explain its actions to the American people and their representatives in Congress. And Republicans will continue to ask these questions until they do.”