Don't Keep This Campaign Promise, Mr. President

Posted: Jan 22, 2010 12:01 AM
Today marks the one-year anniversary of President Obama's executive order to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay within his first year in office. We are fortunate that the President did not meet that goal, but he has repeatedly stated that his Administration remains committed to importing the remaining terrorists held at Gitmo to the United States for trial or detention - including to the suburbs of Chicago, downtown New York City, and potentially even the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

Over the last few months, the Administration has signaled that it will not only bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators to New York City for trial in civilian federal court - rather than continuing their military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay - but it is also proposing to house Guantanamo terrorists at a prison in Illinois. The American people are adamantly opposed to this plan, and rightly so. Are Democrats listening?

Instead of addressing the concerns of the American people, the Administration has engaged in ad-hoc attacks that belittle the seriousness of the threat we face. When I said that the President's decision to set up a "Gitmo North" at the Thomson Correctional Center outside Chicago was emblematic of a "pre 9/11 mentality," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs came unhinged, calling my comments "crazy" - even though an overwhelming majority of the American people disagree with the President's decision to bring these terrorists to U.S. soil.

As we saw on Christmas Day, deadly terrorists continue to wage war on the American people. Terrorist groups like al Qaeda work daily to rally new recruits against the United States, our political and social values, our economic freedom, and our military - all of which were targets on September, 11, 2001 when they committed an act of war against our country, targeting our civilians and our military. Where we detain their fellow combatants - Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or Thompson, Illinois - does not change how they view us, but it does affect the security of the United States and the safety of American communities.

The Administration's response following the attempted attack on Christmas Day is consistent with its decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. We know this decision has not stopped al Qaeda from plotting attacks on Americans and turning these terrorists over to other countries is not working. It's time for the President to halt terrorist transfers to other countries, including Yemen, and to reevaluate his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo.

Time after time the House and Senate have reaffirmed this position with bipartisan votes rejecting the Administration's plan. Yet this Administration is defying the will of the American people and importing them anyway. What's worse, this decision to close Guantanamo and try terrorists in civilian courts is completely unnecessary because these terrorists were already being tried by military commissions, which were specifically designed under the law to prosecute such heinous acts.

Republicans have offered a better solution than importing terrorist to the United States. In May, we introduced the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act (H.R. 2294) to (1) affirm Congress' opposition to transferring or releasing terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay prison into the United States; (2) prohibit the Administration from transferring or releasing any terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay to any state without express approval from the state's governor and legislature; and (3) prohibit the President from transferring or releasing a terrorist detainee into the United States unless he provides notification and certification to Congress. Our proposal reflects the will of the American people, and it puts a premium on their safety and security.

In their rush to bring Guantanamo Bay terrorists on to U.S. soil, Washington Democrats have repeatedly failed to articulate an overarching strategy to confront and defeat the terrorist threat. At the very least, the American people deserve to know how importing these dangerous terrorists and giving them the same rights as U.S. citizens will make us any safer. I have yet to see a good explanation, but Republicans will stand with Illinois families, New Yorkers, and the American people - and seek every remedy at our disposal to stop this dangerous plan.

As Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said during the Republican Weekly Address two weeks ago, "We are a nation at war, and we should act like it. We need to pull together, remain vigilant, and send a clear signal - both to our friends and our enemies - that this government will stop at nothing to protect our homeland. That's how America sets an example for the world."

For the sake of the safety of the American people, this is one campaign pledge the President can afford not to keep.