Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) sent a letter today to President Obama after new reports from the Intelligence Community indicate that detainees recently freed from the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay are attempting to return to terrorism.

Full text of the letter is below and a signed copy is available for download here.

January 10, 2017

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20505

Mr. President:

The Committee has just received a troubling new report from the Intelligence Community indicating that former detainees recently transferred out of Guantanamo Bay by your Administration are attempting to return to terrorism.  Even more concerning, this report indicates that the country to which these detainees were transferred has little ability to prevent their return to the battlefield – a fact known to your Administration prior to their transfer. In light of this dangerous revelation, I again ask that you immediately halt all transfers from Guantanamo Bay and take steps to secure former detainees who pose a threat to U.S. national security.

Unfortunately, these detainees’ attempts to return to the battlefield are far from unprecedented. To date, approximately 33 percent of all transferred or released detainees have returned to the fight. As Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure Paul Lewis made clear in March 2016, this is a statistic with deadly consequences.  Lewis testified to the Committee that, “So what I can tell you is, unfortunately, there have been Americans that have died because of Gitmo detainees.”

These tragic deaths are a direct result of the transfer of detainees to countries that have little ability to control them. The Committee’s ongoing review has found that some recipient countries lack a combination of the political will, legal framework, or institutional capability to monitor detainees.  Shockingly, your administration knowingly transferred individuals to these counties after receiving such assessments, showing a systematic disregard for the work of intelligence professionals.

This was the case with Uruguay, where your Administration transferred six terrorist detainees in December 2014.  By their own law, the Uruguayan government is prohibited from monitoring, surveilling, or imposing restrictions on the former detainees because of their refugee status.  Moreover, the government publicly declared that it would not prevent the detainees from traveling outside the country.  These facts were known before the transfers were made.  As a result, one detainee has traveled numerous times to neighboring countries including Venezuela, a country in chaos.

In a more recent example, your Administration transferred bomb-making expert Tariq al-Sawah to Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2016.  According to recent data, Bosnia has the highest number of foreign fighters per capita in the world.  It also has a 63 percent unemployment rate, with only Bosnian citizens allowed to work.  Yet the Administration transferred al-Sawah – a man with a highly dangerous and marketable skill – to the country with no citizenship or ability to obtain legitimate employment.  Again, these were facts known prior to his transfer.

Your efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay cannot come at the expense of U.S. national security. Again, I ask that you immediately halt all transfers from Guantanamo Bay and take steps to immediately secure former detainees who pose a threat to the United States.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.




Cc:       President-Elect of the United States Donald J. Trump
The Honorable John F. Kerry, Secretary of State
The Honorable Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense
The Honorable Elliot R. Engel, Ranking Member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs