November 3, 2009 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th, VA) today again implored the Obama Administration to rethink its position on releasing detainees from Guantanamo Bay to unstable countries like Yemen.
In a speech on the House floor, Wolf said the administration should "immediately terminate" the return of any detainees to Yemen. Wolf said the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, where al-Qaeda operates freely, raises serious questions as to whether the detainees could be properly monitored by the government of Yemen.
Wolf reminded his colleagues that known al-Qaeda terrorists, including some of the USS Cole bombers, have escaped from prison in Yemen and returned to terrorism. He also pointed to recent media reports of a foiled terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia where one of the alleged terrorists was a former Guantanamo detainee who entered the country from Yemen, "The release of any detainee to Yemen represents a potentially serious threat to the United States and U.S. citizens, both military and civilian," Wolf said.
The Congressman also asked for congressional hearings on the administration's plans, saying Congress should be "directly involved in the oversight of detention and release of dangerous detainees held at Guantanamo Bay."
"As of now, the administration is going down a dangerous road, and Congress is idly allowing them to make these misguided decisions," Wolf said.
On October 1, Wolf, the leading Republican on the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking that all transfers of Guantanamo detainees be stopped until it is clear that the receiving country can properly monitor anyone who is released. Wolf has yet to receive a response to his letter.
Wolf sent copies of his remarks today to President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Attorney General Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
In the letter he pointed out that in September 2008, al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen attacked the U.S. Embassy with car bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. Ten people were killed in the attack. He also asked for an update on any potential transfers.
Below the remarks of Congressman Frank Wolf on the floor of the House regarding this matter.
"To meet the president's deadline for closing Guantanamo, there has been a rush during the past two months to transfer as many detainees as possible to their home countries, or to third countries that would accept them.
On September 26, the administration announced that a detainee named Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed was transferred to Yemen. The announcement did not reveal the terms of his transfer, but said that the United States has coordinated with the Yemeni government to ensure that the transfer took place under "appropriate security measures."
There is an ongoing and very real concern about detainees returning to terrorism.
According to data from the Department of Defense, at least 15 percent of former Guantanamo detainees have returned to terrorist activity.
And the 15 percent who have returned to terrorism following release were merely those detainees who were perceived to be low security risks. That's why they were released years ago.
The detainees pending release now are the worst of the worst. Their recidivism rate may be much higher than 15 percent.
If these detainees are to be transferred, they should go only to governments that are willing and able to try, detain, rehabilitate or monitor them.
Yemen does not meet that standard.
An economic crisis, domestic security challenges, and Islamic terrorism are right now threatening to overwhelm the Yemeni government.
The FBI Director recently highlighted Yemen as an area of "persistent Al-Qaeda activity".
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula openly advertises their intent to attack the United States and our overseas interests, and is able to work in relative freedom in Yemen.
Counterterrorism measures in Saudi Arabia have forced extremists to seek refuge abroad, and many have relocated to Yemen's ungoverned areas.
Known al-Qaeda terrorists, including USS Cole bombers, have escaped from prison in Yemen to return to terrorism.
The Christian Science Monitor reported last month of the rising threat to Saudi Arabia from the deteriorating security situation in Yemen.
Saudi police prevented a bomb attack on October 13, and one of the perpetrators was a former Guantanamo detainee who entered the country from Yemen.
The bottom line is that terrorist detainees should not be sent to Yemen where al-Qaeda operates freely and the government appears unable to control their actions and movements.
Reuters has reported that the Obama Administration has already cleared 75 of the remaining detainees for transfer abroad, and that that list includes 26 detainees from Yemen.
Based on what we know now, this Administration is planning to send more, perhaps many more, detainees to this lawless country, increasing the risk of future terrorist attacks on Americans.
The administration should immediately terminate the return of detainees to Yemen, and the congressional committees of jurisdiction should investigate and demand a full justification.
The release of any detainee to Yemen represents a potentially serious threat to the United States and U.S. citizens, both military and civilian.
Congress needs to hold hearings and be directly involved in the oversight of detention and release of dangerous detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.
As of now, the administration is going down a dangerous road and Congress is idly allowing them to make these misguided decisions."