GOP challenges Obama on Gitmo relocations
By Jared Allen
May 7, 2009
House Republicans on Thursday opened up a political front against the Obama administration, attempting to block the president’s decision to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and charging that Obama’s national security policy is endangering the country.
“The world suddenly did not become safer on Jan. 20, 2009,” Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a press conference in which he and other leaders introduced a bill to block any Guantanamo prisoners from reaching U.S. soil. “There are still terrorists around the world that are committed to killing Americans and destroying our way of life.
“The administration’s political decision to close this prison begs an important question: What is the administration’s overarching plan for defeating the terrorist threat? And where do they plan to put these terrorists?” Boehner asked.
Two days after taking office, Obama announced his intention to shutter the detention center at Guantanamo, which had become a symbol for the harsh treatment of detainees and which, in the view of Democrats, severely tarnished the United States’ standing internationally.
The Republican bill would require that governors and state legislatures pre-approve the transfer or release of any terrorist detainee into their respective states, and it would mandate that the administration meet “strict criteria and certification standards before terrorists housed at the Guantanamo prison could be brought to the United States,” according to a summary.
“Our constituents don’t want these terrorists in their neighborhoods,” Boehner said.
Other Republicans joined in the harsh criticism of the administration’s decision.
“For all of the shortages the previous administration’s terrorist detention policies may have had — and I think most of could agree the shortcomings were several — it did at least set a policy,” said Rep. John McHugh (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. “It did provide a process by which the American people were placed beyond the deadly reach of some of the most deadly terrorists that ever walked the face of the earth… That shield is gone. What it has been replaced by is uncertainly and doubt.”
Homeland Security ranking member Pete King (R-N.Y.) said the president’s decision to close Guantanamo was made “to fulfill a campaign promise.”
“The thought of having any number of these detainees … being literally in the shadow of ground zero I find not just offensive but also extremely dangerous,” King said.
In recent weeks, Republicans have begun to harshly criticize a number of national security decisions made by the president, all of which they say are reversing the policies set by President George W. Bush that — in spite of their political problems for Republicans — made the country safer.
“In a hundred days, President Obama has dramatically changed the direction in dealing with the radical jihadist threat,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee.
Last week Hoekstra and Boehner released a strikingly dark and ominous Web video questioning Obama’s decisions to close Guantanamo and to release Bush administration interrogation justification memos, asking viewers: “After 100 days, do you feel safer?”
“Over the last 100 days, it has become clear that the administration has no comprehensive plan to confront the threat from radical jihadists,” Boehner and Hoekstra said when releasing the video. “From the decision to close a terrorist detention camp with no plan for what to do with the terrorists housed there to the decision to selectively release information about interrogation programs, the administration’s policies have been driven by politics, not by an overarching strategy to protect our nation.”
The duo showed the video to the entire GOP conference on Tuesday, and the result was thunderous applause, according to a number of people in the room.
“I think most people believe it’s dead-on,” Hoekstra said.