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McConnell Rakes Gates Over Gitmo Inmates

No answers from Defense Secretary.

During a Senate Appropriations Hearing on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) subjected Defense Secretary Robert Gates to some very pointed questioning about the Obama administration’s proposed plan to free some of the radical terrorist inmates at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into communities in the United States.

HUMAN EVENTS has been reporting for nearly two weeks on the planned release of seventeen Chinese Uighurs — members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement captured at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.  These terrorist prisoners were found by a review panel to be too dangerous to be set free, yet according to our federal agency source, the White House has overridden opposition to the release by both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Sen. McConnell asked Sec. Gates yesterday about the planned release:

SEN. McCONNELL:  On the Uighurs, I gather the plan is simply to release them in the United States, right?  

SEC. GATES:  Well, some…

McCONNELL:  Not to be incarcerated, but just to be released in the country.

GATES:  I’m not sure a final decision has been made.  What I have heard people talking about is our taking some of the Uighurs, probably not all, because it’s difficult for the State Department to make the argument to other countries they should take these people that we have deemed, in this case, not to be dangerous, if we won’t take any of them ourselves.

Contrary to Gates’ testimony before the committee, sources tell HUMAN EVENTS that these terrorists have, in fact, have been deemed too dangerous to release and the White House is rejecting these findings.

McConnell also raised questions about the legal authority for the release of these terrorists onto U.S. soil.  He cited a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in which he asked for the administration’s legal justification for releasing trained terrorists into the United States, which is a violation of federal law.  

Sessions’ letter has not been answered by Holder.  McConnell also raised concerns about the manner in which the administration is closing the detention facility: an arbitrary date and a timetable driven by political expediency instead of by a sound plan.

“The previous administration also said they wanted to close Guantanamo,” McConnell said at the hearing. “The difference is, this administration actually put a date on it and actually has to answer the question: what are you going to do with them?”

McConnell also noted that communities across the country are increasingly alarmed by the Obama administration’s proposal to transfer inmates to U.S. soil.

“Communities are going to be upset about this,” McConnell said. “This is a very important issue and it deals with public safety, as we all know.  We haven’t been attacked against since 9/11.   We like that, and we’d like for that record to continue.”

Gates acknowledges the public’s widespread opposition to transferring these radical terrorists to the United States. Gates said that at some point he expects “535 pieces of legislation before this is over saying, ‘[N]ot in my district, not in my state.’”

McConnell replied, “You can count on it.”

Thursday’s hearing comes 267 days before the Gitmo detention facility is mandated to be closed under a January executive order by the President.

I ran into Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, in a hallway at the Capitol Building and ambushed him with a question about the breaking news story of the proposed release of the Uighur terrorists into our communities unabated.

“If true and I stress if true, this is I think a reckless mentality for the defense of our nation,” Price said.  “This administration has demonstrated in a very short period of time, just a little over three months, that they are willing to go to huge lengths to ensure specific rights for terrorists but not necessarily specific rights for the American people to be protected.  Very dangerous.  Very dangerous.”

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Connie Hair writes a weekly column for HUMAN EVENTS. She is a former speechwriter for Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).

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