Republican lawmakers called Thursday for the Obama administration to suspend detainee transfers from Guantanamo Bay following a Fox News report that as many as 20 to 30 former prisoners are suspected by intelligence and Defense officials of having joined forces with the Islamic State and other militant groups inside Syria.
Some of those former Guantanamo detainees were released within the last three years.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said in a statement the development “underscores the risks we face when Guantanamo detainees are released based on a misguided desire to close Guantanamo — rather than the national security interests of the United States.”
She urged President Obama to suspend further transfers “at least until a thorough review can be conducted to better understand how many former Guantanamo detainees have joined ISIS and what we can do to prevent such an outcome in the future.”
Ayotte also wrote to Obama seeking more information about former detainees who have joined with the Islamic State, or ISIS, saying troops “should never have to confront a former Guantanamo detainee on the battlefield.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, earlier agreed that “even one” former detainee on the battlefield “would not make someone wearing the uniform very content.”
But he stressed that “the recidivism is a relatively small fraction of those detainees, which have been placed into conditions where the risk of recidivism is mitigated.”
And Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, while acknowledging some detainees “have gone back to the fight,” stood by the administration’s Guantanamo policy.
“We think that overall the policy of getting to close Guantanamo is clearly in the interest of the United States, as the president has articulated,” Hagel said.
But Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote to Hagel on Thursday also urging a suspension of detainee transfers. He cited, among other concerns, “public reports that detainees are specifically rejoining the fight alongside ISIL.”