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Ayotte Calls for Armed Services Committee Hearing on Release of Guantanamo Detainees

Armed Services Committee member expresses concern about risk of reengagement and increased incentive for Taliban to capture Americans

Jun 2, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today urged the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing regarding the transfer of five former top Taliban commanders - which the administration reportedly had previously deemed to be "high risk"- from U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. In a letter today to the committee's Chairman, Ayotte expressed deep concern that the transfer of these detainees could allow them to reengage in terrorist attacks against the U.S. and could encourage the Taliban and terrorist groups around the world to capture more Americans.

"With 29 percent of former Guantanamo detainees having reengaged or being suspected of reengaging in terrorism, the administration's decision to release these five terrorist detainees endangers U.S. national security interests," said Ayotte. "It also sets a precedent that could encourage our enemies to capture more Americans in order to gain concessions from our government. The Armed Services Committee has a responsibility to seek answers to these important questions, which have serious national security implications."

As an Armed Services Committee member, Ayotte has worked to place limits on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to foreign countries. She recently included an amendment in the Senate Armed Services Committee-approved version of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that would establish a one-year prohibition on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen. Yemen is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which U.S. national security officials have declared is the most dangerous al Qaeda affiliate.

AYOTTE LETTER TO CHAIRMAN LEVIN:

June 2, 2014

The Honorable Carl Levin
Chairman
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Levin:

I write to request that the Senate Armed Services Committee convene a hearing at the earliest possible date on the transfer of the five detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. I am deeply concerned that the transfer of these detainees could allow them to engage in future terrorist attacks against the U.S. and our allies. I am also concerned that their transfer may encourage the Taliban and terrorist groups around the world to take American service members or diplomats captive in order to gain concessions from the U.S. or the release of terrorist detainees.

These five top former Taliban commanders had reportedly been designated as "high risk" by the Joint Task Force Guantanamo and had links to al Qaeda. In addition, according to the Director of National Intelligence, 29 percent of released Guantanamo detainees have reengaged-or are suspected of having reengaged-in terrorist activity.

For these reasons, I believe it is important for the Senate Armed Services Committee to convene a hearing to answer key questions such as:

• Why were the former detainees reportedly designated a "high risk"?
• What changed that warrants the transfer of these detainees to Qatar?
• What are the details of the agreement between the United States and Qatar regarding the detention and monitoring of these detainees?
• Some reports suggest that the former detainees are under a travel ban, but that the ban will only last for a year. What is the nature of the travel ban and will the detainees be permitted to leave Qatar after a year?
• Do U.S. authorities have access to the detainees to ask additional questions?
• Why did the Department of Defense not comply with the 30 day reporting requirement in section 1035 of the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 113-66)?
• What steps have been taken to reduce their likelihood of reengagement in terrorism?
• Will the transfer of these detainees encourage the Taliban and terrorist groups around the world to take U.S. service members and diplomats captive?

Thank you for your leadership of the committee and your consideration of my request.

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