Citing the terrorist attacks in Paris, newly empowered Republican senators on Tuesday proposed restrictions on President Obama’s ability to transfer terrorism suspects out of the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the remainder of his term.
“Now is not the time to be emptying Guantanamo,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference in which she warned of fresh threats and bemoaned recent releases from the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
The legislation would bar transfers to Yemen for two years, suspend the transfer of high- or medium-risk terrorism suspects for the same period and repeal current law that has allowed the administration to transfer prisoners to foreign countries and reduce the population at Guantanamo.
The bill would also prohibit transfers of terrorism suspects to foreign countries if there has been a confirmed case in which an individual was transferred from Guantanamo and later engaged in any terrorist activity.
Obama has pushed to close Guantanamo since his inauguration in January 2009 but has faced strong opposition from congressional Republicans and some Democrats who argue that the facility is the ideal location for holding terrorism suspects.
The recent attacks in France that left 17 dead were repeatedly mentioned as Ayotte and three other GOP senators — Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, Intelligence panel chairman Richard Burr and Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina — criticized the administration’s drive to close Guantanamo.
“When we look at Paris and see it in real time . . . anybody at Guantanamo is a legitimate source to go to” for questioning about intelligence information, Burr said.
McCain said the administration has failed to produce a plan for handling the Guantanamo population, now at 127. He said that with strong support from House Republicans, his committee would move swiftly on the bill.
The administration is expected to object to the legislation.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, said this past weekend that Guantanamo should be closed, describing it as in the national interest and calling it “a psychological scar on our national values.”