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Coldwater Daily Reporter: Mr. President, don't close Guantanamo

March 21, 2016
Opinion Editorial
We've repeatedly heard the same campaign rhetoric for seven years, but President Obama finally submitted a plan to Congress in late February to close down Guantanamo Bay. The eight-page proposal, however, lacked specificity on several critical items, including how much it would cost to implement and where in the United States the remaining prisoners would be transferred-pretty significant details to leave out.

On the exact same day the President touted his incomplete plan, four terror suspects were arrested by Spanish and Moroccan authorities for working with an ISIS cell. One of which was previously a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

In other words, as President Obama tried to diminish the safety risks of closing Guantanamo, a former detainee at the prison was caught recruiting and plotting terrorist acts against innocent people.

It was yet another illustration of why President Obama's misguided plan ignores reality and the heightened threats we face at home and abroad.

It followed reports from earlier in February that a former Osama bin Laden aide, released from Guantanamo Bay in 2012, had rejoined Al Qaeda as a senior operative and was featured in several jihadist propaganda videos.

These are hardly isolated incidents. According to a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the recidivism rate of released detainees who are suspected or confirmed of returning to the battlefield is 30 percent.

Troublingly, President Obama continues down this perilous path despite not having the authority to unilaterally shutter Guantanamo Bay in the first place. In fact, the latest defense bill backed by both Democrats and Republicans, which passed the House by 370-58 and the Senate by 91-3, included explicit language preventing the President from closing Guantanamo. The President himself signed it into law.

Members of President Obama's own cabinet agree that the law is clear.

In testimony on Capitol Hill, Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed the law's intent, saying: "It's certain that we would be prohibited from doing so."

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter echoed her interpretation. "So it is good if it can be done, but it cannot be done under current law. The law has to be changed," he said.

There's a reason hardened terrorists are held at Guantanamo Bay, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. No state in America wants to put their security at risk and house them in their backyard. In an increasingly dangerous world, Guantanamo remains an important tool to keep the American people safe.

ISIS is expanding its terrorist network from Iraq and Syria into Libya and beyond. Despite the nuclear deal, Iran has tested ballistic missiles three times in violation with U.N. resolutions and gave medals to commanders who captured American sailors. North Korea's rogue regime continues to act provocatively, conducting a nuclear test and a long range missile test in the last month alone.

These national security threats and more must be the focus instead of an illegal campaign pledge that jeopardizes the American people's safety.

Mr. President, it's time to drop your dangerous and deeply unpopular plan.

U.S. Congressman Tim Walberg represents Michigan's 7th Congressional District. This op-ed originally appeared in the March 20 edition of the Coldwater Daily Reporter.

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