Moments after President Obama completed his speech Thursday at the National Defense University in which he laid out plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detainee camp, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said Obama’s comments will be “viewed by terrorists as a victory,” reports the Hill.
Chambliss, the senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, slammed Obama’s plans to shut down Gitmo for good.
“We knew five years ago that closing Guantanamo was a bad idea and would not work,” Chambliss said.
“Yet, today’s speech sends the message to Guantanamo detainees that if they harass the dedicated military personnel there enough, we will give in and send them home, even to Yemen.”
Obama has been under pressure to close Guantanamo as the 186 prisoners left at the camp continue their hunger strike.
In his speech, Obama explained the prison could be closed if the ban on sending cleared Guantánamo detainees from Yemen back to that country was lifted.
Fifty-six of the 166 detainees at the prison are from Yemen and have been cleared for release.
Republicans wasted no time voicing their displeasure with the plan.
“The president may be solving a political problem by these transfers in his own mind, but he’s creating a national security problem for our soldiers and our diplomats,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.
Many Republicans believe sending detainees to Yemen, where al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operates, is too great of a security risk.
“I’m very concerned about the transfer of people back to Yemen,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who supports closing the prison.
“We don’t want them to go back into the fight.”
Republicans have resisted calls to close Gitmo, saying the prison is a key tool to detain terrorists who cannot face a trial.
House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said that to close Guantánamo, he wants to know “what the president intends to do with those terrorist detainees who are too dangerous to release but cannot be tried; how he will ensure terrorists transferred overseas do not return to the fight, and what he will do with terrorists we will capture in the future.”
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