sferred’ rather than ‘released,’ because there’s an extensive process that goes into removing a detainee from the prison and sending him to another country. It’s not as though they’re just set loose.
“But it is important to know: how exactly are we monitoring transferred detainees and assessing the risk they pose? Those are good questions.
“But because they deal with intelligence methods, we could only discuss them in a closed, classified setting. My understanding is that the Administration offered to do just that. And that offer was rebuffed. I hope that after this hearing, in a few weeks or so, we can have a closed, classified setting to get answers to some questions that you are not really allowed to say here in open session.
“So why are we here? The title of today’s hearing is, ‘Demanding Accountability: The Administration’s Reckless Release of Terrorists from Guantanamo.’ Well since we say ‘Reckless Release,’ it sounds like people’s minds are made up. And I want to make sure all the facts are on the table. Because I think there’s plenty of blame to go all around. I think the Chairman raises legitimate issues, but I do think there’s plenty of blame to go all around.
“First, the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were transferred out of the prison before President Obama took office. A total of 780 detainees have been held in Guantanamo. During the Bush Administration, 500 were transferred out, compared to 159 detainees under President Obama.
“Secondly, let’s take a look at the number of transferred detainees who returned to the battlefield. The figure 30 percent gets thrown around a lot, but what goes into that number? It turns out it includes the total number of transferred detainees that we know for sure have returned to the fight, as well as those suspected of re-engagement, over the entire life of the Guantanamo Prison, 2001 to present.
“During the Bush years, 2001 through 2008, the rate of suspected and confirmed cases of reengagement was actually higher than that: 35 percent, with 21 percent of the cases confirmed and 14 percent suspected. So let me say that again: more than one-third of the terrorists that President Bush’s Administration transferred may have returned to the fight.
“Now, let’s contrast that with the Obama Administration. Under President Obama, that number—again, totaling suspected and confirmed cases—drops to 13 percent: eight percent suspected and just five percent confirmed. That five percent represents seven people. Now I know one person escaping is one person too much. But, I just want to have a balanced hearing here. Because if we’ve already made up our minds in talking about the Administration being reckless, it doesn’t seem to me that we’re really here to learn anything more.
“I reiterate: at most, 13 percent of those transferred since January 2009 have re-engaged—compared to as much as 35 percent during the previous Administration. The contrast is striking.
“But let’s not get lost in the numbers, because this is perhaps the most important point: the transferred detainees who returned to the battlefield and killed Americans were let out during the Bush Administration, not during the Obama Administration.
“So if we’re going to paint with a broad brush and say 30 percent of transferred detainees may be going back to the fight and killing Americans, we need to take the whole story and put it in perspective. The Bush Administration racked up that average and then some. The Obama Administration has helped to bring it back down.
“Thirdly, the Administration’s closure plan would not transfer any person who does not meet the most stringent criteria. I’ve heard claims that the remaining detainees are the worst of the worst, and the Administration simply wants to turn them loose. That’s false.
“Twenty-nine of 79 remaining detainees are cleared for transfer. Among them are 22 Yemenis. The Administration isn’t transferring them yet. As a matter of policy, we transfer detainees to their home countries. But in the case of Yemen, the government cannot provide adequate security assurances. So the Administration has pumped the brakes out of an abundance of caution. We need to find countries that can provide adequate assurances before those 22 are transferred.
“That leaves 50. Some of these are really bad guys. Ten of them will stand trial. Another 40 are being legitimately held as prisoners of war. But under no circumstances, in my opinion, is the Obama Administration simply opening the gate and releasing dangerous terrorists onto the street.
“Look, Guantanamo’s a mess and it always has been. No one is blameless. Anyone can cherry-pick single cases to paint a picture big or small, good or bad, but I think the facts and the statistics speak for themselves.
“And I think that what we should do after this instead of having the witnesses come and tell us that they can only tell us things in a classified briefing is to spend our time with them after this hearing in a few weeks where we could be in a closed setting getting to the bottom of this matter.
“Now the Foreign Affairs Committee obviously has oversight on this issue. The hearing last March and today’s hearing are the only two times that the Committee has taken up this issue in the nearly 15 years the Guantanamo Prison has been open.
“So since we have our top Guantanamo experts with us today, I hope you can give us your opinions on some interesting ideas we’ve recently heard about that prison.
“I’m going to read you a few quotes. You may recognize them. I’ll give you a hint: it’s one of the candidates running for President.
“Here’s the first: ‘This morning I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo. Guantanamo Bay—which, by the way, we are keeping open! And we’re going to load it up with some bad dudes. We’re going to load it up.’
“And the second: ‘Torture works. OK, folks?... Believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question, ‘What do you think of waterboarding?’ Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding…. We should go much stronger, because our country’s in trouble.’
“So I just want to say that I read that because you know some people say they want to expand the Guantanamo prison and torture. I can’t think of a worse proposal for our national security. These schemes would only harm us with our allies and provide ammunition to our adversaries.
“Mr. Wolosky, Mr. Lewis, at some point today, maybe we can hear your views on what would happen if we went in that direction.
“Again, I, I hate doing tit-for-tats, but I, I do think it’s, it’s not really fair to blame the Administration for all the frustrations we have about Guantanamo when we see that there were problems and, and wrong things done in the previous Administration as well. So I look forward to listening to you and hearing your thoughts. And, thank you Mr. Chairman.”