One of President Obama’s principle campaign promises in 2008 was the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t able to fulfill his promise due to extreme resistance from congressional lawmakers, as well as logistical problems regarding locations to which former prisoners could be transferred.
Despite the issues that bind him, Obama has managed to make numerous prisoner transfers. Aside from the controversial Bowe Bergdahl swap in which five Guantanamo prisoners were traded for the AWOL soldier, the president has released hundreds of detainees into countries like Uruguay and Bosnia.
The administration claims that special arrangements are made with the nations into which the detainees are released so as to make the transfers safe.
In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal Monday, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, not only castigated the president for his numerous prisoner transfers, but claims that the alleged safety arrangements are a farce:
“We began our investigation two years ago, after the White House released six hardened terrorists to Uruguay. The administration had repeatedly promised Congress that it transfers detainees to foreign countries only after securing specific assurances about how those countries will reduce threats. Meanwhile, the administration wrote Uruguay’s president that none of the detainees had ever been involved in facilitating or conducting terrorism. Both Congress and the Uruguayan government were misled.”
Royce adds a disturbing detail:
“At a March hearing, the administration’s special envoys for Guantanamo Bay closure admitted for the first time that as many as 12 former Gitmo detainees have returned to the terrorist battlefield and killed Americans…According to the office of the director of National Intelligence, nearly one-third of the detainees freed from Gitmo—208 of the 693 detainees who were released under Presidents Bush or Obama—are confirmed or suspected of returning to terrorism.”
The president has been releasing men from Guantanamo Bay who go on to participate in terrorist activities–even killing Americans. The release of these prisoners is purposeful.
As Obama enters the final stretch of his presidency, he knows that many of his signature achievements will be undone under President-elect Donald Trump. The Affordable Care Act and executive amnesty will likely be gutted or entirely dismantled, and sanctions on hostile nations may revert to pre-2009 conditions.
There are very few things Obama can do that can’t simply be taken back by Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress. One of the things he can do is release and transfer Gitmo detainees. If the president wants to secure some kind of legacy that will be viewed positively by progressives, this (along with his recent abstention in the anti-Israel U.N. resolution) is the way to do it.
If the numbers from the office of the Director of National Intelligence are correct, the recidivism rate of prisoners who have been detained in Guantanamo Bay is approximately 30%. Obama knows this. He also knows that 12 former detainees have gone on to kill Americans. By continuing to release Gitmo prisoners, the president is not only behaving recklessly, he’s knowingly endangering human lives.
What a legacy.