Weekly Columns

Keep Gitmo Open

Mar 02 2016

The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress prohibits the President from closing the detention center at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo) and bans the transfer of its detainees. President Barack Obama signed this bill into law. In recent days he submitted a vague and dangerous plan to Congress to close Gitmo and move detainees to U.S. soil – violating a law that he approved three months ago.

Transferring these vile terrorists to American communities cannot and should not be an option.

Gitmo is a state-of-the-art detention facility that is well-equipped to handle the world’s most dangerous terrorists. I saw this firsthand during a 2011 visit. The operations at the naval base are safe, humane, legal and transparent. This is a well-guarded, isolated facility. No community in America has a facility that offers the security of Gitmo.

I am concerned that President Obama is more worried about fulfilling a campaign promise to close Gitmo than he is about the security of the American people. The reality is that transferring detainees to American soil threatens our national security and poses a risk to our citizens.

In January, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told CNN that there “are people in Gitmo who are so dangerous that we cannot transfer them.”

Bringing them to the American heartland is not the answer. The American people don’t want terrorists detained in a facility in their community.

In its submission to Congress, the administration said it reviewed 13 potential facilities that could be used to detain these terrorists. While it did not name the locations, last year Pentagon officials visited sites in Colorado, Kansans and South Carolina. My colleagues from these states have been voicing their concerns for months about how Guantanamo Bay detainees are not welcome in their states, just like they wouldn’t be welcome in Arkansas.

The American people don’t want terrorists as neighbors. That’s why Congress has soundly rejected the President’s proposal to close Gitmo.

As a longtime advocate for ensuring the military prison remains open, I’ve voted to prevent its closure and blocked funding for the transfer and release of Gitmo detainees. I support legislation to restrict transfers and encourage requiring that each high-value enemy combatant who is captured or otherwise taken into long-term custody by the United States, be detained at Gitmo.

At a time when we are fighting global terrorism, holding these dangerous terrorists within our country’s borders is not the solution our citizens want. We need to utilize this facility. Since President Obama took office, no new detainee has been transferred to this detention center.

Instead, the administration has released or transferred the terrorists to other countries. The same day the President submitted his plan to close Gitmo, Spanish authorities announced they arrested a man for recruiting Islamic State fighters. That same man had once been a detainee at Gitmo.

I believe that we must keep Gitmo open. I will continue to fight the President’s efforts to close this facility.