Obama effort to close Guantanamo suffers double setback

Posted at 7:09 PM, Sep 15, 2016

The House passed legislation Thursday that would prohibit the transfer of any of the remaining detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the US homeland or any foreign country.

The move comes the day after a new intelligence report revealed that two more former inmates have returned to terrorist activity since being released.

The twin developments further set back the administration’s efforts to close Guantanamo, an early pledge of President Barack Obama. However, the White House is continuing to express optimism that the goal will be reached despite the administration’s dwindling time in office.

While the latest bill passed largely along party lines and is unlikely to move forward in the Senate, it signals a continued resistance to the administration’s efforts to reduce the prison population. Capitol Hill’s unwillingness to allow detainees to be housed in the United States has posed a major obstacle as the White House tries to find homes for the 61 remaining Guantanamo prisoners.

“For the president, this is about keeping a campaign promise. For us, this is about keeping Americans safe,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said in a statement following the bill’s passage Thursday.

He also seized on the latest example of detainees’ recidivism to press the case that no one else should be released: “The news that two more former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the fight underscores the need for this action.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which tracks recidivism among former inmates, said Wednesday that the intelligence community has confirmed that two more detainees released since Obama took office have returned to “terrorist activities” since its last review, published in March. Intelligence officials would not say who the two inmates were or what actions they had undertaken.

According to the new document, nine of 161 inmates released since January 2009 fall have returned to supporting terror groups. An additional 11 are “suspected” of having gone back to terrorist activity, though the report notes that the Defense Intelligence Agency puts that number at 15.

During the George W. Bush administration, 113 of 532 released prisoners were confirmed to have reengaged in terrorism, the report said.

The largest detainee transfer under Obama took place in August, with 15 inmates going to the UAE. The prison’s dwindling population recently caused military officials to close one of the detention camps and consolidate the remaining inmates.

Despite the hardened congressional opposition, Obama projected optimism during a news conference last week in Asia.

Obama said that he was “not ready to concede” that the detention facility may remain open after his time in office. “We’re still working diligently to continue to shrink the population.”

He added, “It’s a tough road to haul, but, you know, I expect to work really hard over the next four months.”