At a time when the world is becoming more dangerous and al Qaida and affiliated groups have reconstituted and grown, we should not be importing known terrorists into the United States. Sounds simple, right? Not to one member of Congress.
According to an article in The Hill newspaper last week, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, plans to offer an amendment to this year’s defense spending bill that would do just that. Smith’s amendment would reverse existing law that forbids the administration from importing Guantanamo detainees into the United States. He claims the detention facility cannot “effectively close…until the congressionally mandated restrictions are removed.”
Detention of the enemy during wartime is lawful and necessary and has been part of all wars in the past. Heritage supports keeping Guantanamo Bay open as a detention facility, as do the American people by a wide margin. Closing the facility before the war ends makes no sense, nor does bringing known terrorists into the United States while the war is ongoing.
Since its creation in 2002, the Guantanamo detention center has held 779 detainees. Today, there are 154 detainees from 21 countries. President Bush announced in 2006 he would like to close the facility. Approximately 544 detainees were transferred or released from the island during the Bush administration. The Obama administration has transferred approximately 81 detainees.
Last year, Congress eased restrictions it had placed on this administration regarding transfers from the island to third countries because those restrictions, although passed on a bipartisan basis, essentially had stopped the flow of detainees from the island to third countries.
President Obama had an opportunity to close Guantanamo during his first two years in office, when Democrats controlled the House and Senate. But he was unwilling to make the case to his fellow Democrats and spend the political capital necessary. Instead, Congress passed bipartisan legislation that forbade Guantanamo detainees from coming to the United States, as well as other legislation to make it more difficult to close the facility.
Rep. Smith’s quest to bring Guantanamo detainees to the United States is not a prerequisite to close Gitmo, and it isn’t going to happen.