Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Almost nine months after signing legislation that required the Obama administration to release a report to Congress concerning the identities and backgrounds of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) detention facility in Cuba, the Pentagon has finally produced a declassified report on over 100 detainees who are currently being held or have been recently released from Gitmo.

The Department of Defense has been reluctant to disclose much information about those being held at the detention center, but we already know from recent reporting, and the congressional testimony from a Pentagon official, that some former detainees who were transferred out of the facility had returned to the battlefield and are responsible for the deaths of Americans.

President Obama made an irresponsible campaign promise to close Gitmo before the end of his presidency. This report, along with comments from Administration officials about continued efforts to transfer Gitmo detainees, should be a wake-up call that President Obama intends to empty Gitmo since Congress has continually denied his demands to close it. 

I’ve supported repeated attempts to block the Administration from shuttering the facility or transferring detainees to US soil, including introducing resolutions calling for fighters involved with the Islamic State (ISIS) to be detained at Gitmo if they are captured by the United States and formally rejecting President Obama’s plan to transfer prisoners from Gitmo to locations on American soil, as well as supporting legislation that would require the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress of any intended transfers of detainees and certify that they no longer pose a threat to national security.

Despite evidence of former Gitmo detainees recidivating into terrorist activity, the Obama administration has said that it will continue to work with countries willing to receive them. 

This report sheds much-needed light on who these prisoners are and why it is important to continue holding them at the state-of-the-art Gitmo facility rather than releasing them to the care of other nations where some will undoubtedly return to the battlefield.

I will urge the president to reconsider his approach of transferring these dangerous prisoners and I will continue to use Congress’ oversight authority to keep the president from fulfilling an ill-thought campaign pledge that jeopardizes national security.

The 2016 Summer Olympics officially gets underway today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I’m cheering for Team USA and athletes from Arkansas as they go for the gold. Arkansas is well represented at the games with six athletes competing:

  • Kyle Clemons of Jonesboro in Track and Field 
  • Jeff Henderson of McAlmont in Track and Field
  • Isabella Isaksen of Fayetteville in the Pentathlon
  • Margaux Isaksen of Fayetteville in the Pentathlon   
  • Michael Tinsley of Little Rock in Track and Field 
  • Alexis Week of Cabot in Track and Field 

These talented Arkansans have proven their abilities on the athletic field. The commitment, dedication and hard work they put into training to become elite athletes and represent our country is inspiring. They serve as a reminder that perseverance and determination can make anything possible. I’m proud to celebrate these Arkansans as they compete against the best in the world and wish them luck at the Olympics. I know that the whole state will be cheering them on during their Olympic endeavors.

"Something Tangible"

Aug 05 2016

The Obama Administration has some questions to answer about the $400 million cash payment to Iran on the same day it released four American prisoners and formally implemented the nuclear deal.

How the President justifies this apparent violation of our long-standing policy not to pay ransom to secure the release of hostages is at the top of the list. The Obama Administration contends that this is not a ransom payment, but the Iranians do not view this the same way our President does.

To Iran, this is clearly a quid pro quo. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Iranian defense officials publically called the cash “a ransom payment.” And despite the vehement denials from U.S. officials that same Wall Street Journal report says, “U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible.”

That “something tangible” will likely end up in the hands of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations funded by Iran. It will almost certainly be used to fund Iran’s efforts to support the Assad regime’s desperate attempts to maintain power in Syria prolonging, and likely escalating, an already bloody conflict that has allowed the Islamic State to flourish in the region.

Iran’s “tangible” prize will also be used to develop and acquire ballistic missiles and other weapon systems that it is now free to pursue as a result of the Obama Administration’s poorly negotiated Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The regime in Tehran has been eagerly showing the world how it is quickly rebuilding its weapon arsenal now that it is free of nuclear-related sanctions. This payout will only intensify the regime’s stockpiling of weapons that it previously had been banned from acquiring.

This is why you never give the world’s leading sponsor of terror, and a regime that routinely threatens us and our allies, a ransom payment. Just as the nuclear agreement has emboldened Iran to rebuild its arsenal, this ransom payment will simply embolden the regime to hold more Americans hostage. It has clearly proven to be a profitable scheme for the Iranians.

I’ve had a number of constituents call and write to ask how Congress could allow this to happen. The truth is we were once again cut out by this Administration, which time and time again has gone around Congress to enact its agenda, especially when it comes to the President’s deal with Iran. The Obama Administration carried this out on its own. Now it must be accountable for those actions.

I am proud to honor our veterans. At a ceremony at the Arkansas State Capitol I presented their families with the medals their loved ones earned for their service and sacrifice to our country. John Hays served in WWII. He was a radioman and aerial gunner during operations in the vicinity of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Marshall Islands and the Philippines. Arthur Haviland served in WWII in several major battles and campaigns including the invasion of Sicily and the Rome-Arno Campaign. He continued his service in the Minnesota Army National Guard. He retired with more than 38 years of service in uniform. William Ballew served in Korea and Vietnam. He sustained serious injuries in 1969 as a result of hostile action while on duty in Vietnam. Through faith, his strong will and with the support and sacrifice of his loving family, he lived for 33 more years. He earned the Distinguished Service Medal as well as many other awards and medals. 

For a vast majority of Muslims, the month-long observation of Ramadan is marked by fasting, charity and nightly prayer.

This year, the Islamic State (ISIS) turned it into a month of horror.

Close to 350 people were killed in terror attacks in eight different countries during Ramadan. Most of these attacks have been, at the very least, linked to ISIS.

The Obama Administration contends ISIS is lashing out in desperation as a result of the group losing ground in its self-proclaimed caliphate. Even if lost territory is the reason for the uptick in ISIS attacks abroad, a theory which remains up for debate, the terror group clearly has the means and a plan to carry on with its carnage. You can bet it has a plan to regain any lost territory as well.

ISIS clearly has a strategy. Where is the ours, Mr. President? 

High-profile attacks during Ramadan 

6/12—Omar Mateen—who was inspired by and pledged allegiance to ISIS—opened fire inside an Orlando nightclub killing 49 innocent Americans. 

6/13—A 25-year-old Islamic extremist who pledged allegiance to ISIS brutally murdered a police commander and a civil servant at the home they shared in Magnanville, France. The jihadist, who had been previously convicted and jailed for terror recruiting, posted a 12-minute propaganda video to Facebook live from the scene of the attack.

6/21—ISIS terrorists from Syria drove a suicide car bomb across the border to the Jordanian side and detonated it at an army post killing seven soldiers. Jordan is a key ally in the region and in the fight against ISIS.

6/28—One of the world’s busiest airports, Istanbul’s international airport, was stormed by three jihadists armed with assault rifles and explosive belts. They killed 44 people and wounded nearly 150 in an attack that appears to have been directed by ISIS leadership responsible for recruiting and training Russian-speaking jihadists.

7/1—Jihadists armed with knives, automatic rifles and bombs stormed a popular restaurant in an upscale neighborhood in the capital of Bangladesh, taking 35 hostages before torturing and killing those who could not recite the Quran. By the end of the attack, terrorists killed twenty hostages—mostly foreigners—including three U.S. college students.

7/2—A truck packed with explosives detonated by a busy shopping center in one of Baghdad’s more upscale, relatively safe neighborhoods. The center was packed with shoppers buying goods for the upcoming Eid feast, which marks the breaking of Ramadan fast. The bombing, claimed by ISIS, killed over 250 people and wounded another 150. It was one of the deadliest single attacks to hit Iraq during the past 13 years of war and insurgency.

7/4—Three cities across Saudi Arabia were hit by suicide bombers, including one attack at the mosque where the Prophet Muhammad is said to be buried in the holy city of Medina. The mosque is an important stop for millions of pilgrims each year. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings, which killed four civilians, but ISIS has attacked the kingdom before and analysts believe that the bombings could be the work of ISIS or its sympathizers

I joined Jonathan Reeves at Jonesboro’s KASU during the station’s morning show today to discuss recent events, including last week’s officer-related shootings and the ambush on law enforcement in Dallas. We also discussed the FBI's decision not to charge Hillary Clinton in relation to her reckless handling of classified emails while serving as Secretary of State and more. If you missed it, you can listen to the interview in its entirety on KASU's website

I will host a telephone town hall on Monday, June 27 at 7 p.m. CT to connect with Arkansans and discuss topics under debate in Washington.

This statewide event allows Arkansans the ability to ask me questions over the phone or listen to the conversation about the issues impacting them.

 Arkansans interested in participating in the phone conversation should call toll free 888-400-1986 to connect to the discussion and ask questions.

I look forward to talking with Arkansans about issues important to families, businesses and the future of our nation. Telephone town halls allow me to connect with Arkansans all over the state and discuss topics important to them. I look forward to the conversation.

 

In separate statements made just days apart last week, President Obama and CIA Director Brennan both touted progress in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS). They pointed to the terror organization’s loss of territory, key leadership and finances.

Their assessments of the group’s capabilities, however, was quite different.

“ISIL is on defense.” - President Obama on the Islamic State (6/14/16)
“ISIL remains a formidable adversary.” - CIA Director John Brennan on the Islamic State (6/16/16)

The disconnect between these two statements is quite striking. While both can be true at the same time, one outlook is unmistakably more positive than the other. The context of President Obama and Director Brennan’s statements were quite different. Clearly the President wants to present the situation in a much better light than our intelligence community sees it.

In a similar vein to the President’s pre-Paris attack declaration that ISIS has been “contained”, he has once again attempted to paint a rosier picture than reality offers.

The truth is the Obama Administration’s lack of a real strategy to combat ISIS allowed the group to continue to add recruits, claim territory and spread its warped ideology. Any territory that has been reclaimed by coalition efforts in the ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate, has been countered by massive growth in Libya, the co-opting of groups in places like Egypt and an expansion into Asian and East African nations.

The President’s lack of a strategy has not only failed us with ISIS. The Taliban holds more territory in Afghanistan now than at any time since 2001. Equally as troubling is the fact that the Taliban now appears to be taking a page from the ISIS playbook and ratcheting up the brutality of its atrocities.

We can defeat ISIS. We can make our homeland safer. In order to do so, the President has to bring forth plans based on reality. He must listen to the strategy our military leadership proposes to defeat ISIS abroad. He must engage our intelligence community, which has a much more grim view of ISIS’s capabilities than he does, to ensure that we can prevent attacks at home. And he absolutely must be honest with the American people about the nature of the enemy we face. 

These efforts cannot succeed, however, if the President does not understand the gravity of the situation. ISIS remains a dire threat and must be treated that way.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s editorial “Defeat them, the only answer left” published today, agreed that our nation must take the necessary steps to defeat ISIS and radial Islamic terrorists:

“The best answer to what's happening might have been suggested by the senior senator from Arkansas, John Boozman, who usually doesn't sound this angry. But Orlando was enough to get even the Hon. and honorable John Boozman up in arms, along with the rest of us”

Read the editorial here. (subscription required)