Last week, President Obama issued an executive order closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which houses hundreds of suspected terrorists and enemy combatants. I was shocked by this announcement, but even more concerned by the fact that the President had no plans as to what would happen next.
Where would these prisoners, terrorists who are intent on harming Americans, go? Would we release them on American soil? Transport them to American prisons? Return them to their country of origin? And if they stay in this country, what rights would be afforded to them?
If they are released or transferred to another country, we cannot ensure they will not return to the battlefield or attempt to attach Americans or our allies. In fact, according to the Pentagon, 61 detainees who were released from Guantanamo have returned to terrorist activities. One in particular, Said Ali al-Shihri, was released in 2007. He then planned and executed an attack on the American embassy in Yemen in September 2008, which killed an American. Releasing all detainees back to their home country would only swell the ranks of the terrorist organizations that are bent on destroying this country, making our citizens less safe at home and around the world.
I have heard discussions about moving detainees to American prisons, but President Obama gave no instructions as to which prisons they will be moved. In one report, Oklahoma's Fort Sill was mentioned as a suggested location. I am outraged at that possibility. I will not allow President Obama to turn our state into a terrorist dumping ground and expose Oklahomans to these violent and dangerous individuals. Our prisons are already functioning at full capacity and are strained to meet their present requirements. Our federal prisons were not designed to hold international terrorists and enemy combatants, not to mention the fact that we would be introducing terrorists into our prison populations.
If terrorist detainees are brought to this country for trial, President Obama established no directives regarding their legal rights. America has one of the highest legal standards in the world, making it very difficult to try and convict criminals. While this is set up to protect American citizens, in this instance, it would allow some of these terrorists to be released because of loopholes. I can't imagine what President Obama would say to the American public if September 11th mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was released onto American soil because of a legal technicality.
This move in Mr. Obama's first week in office is alarming. By radically curtailing our military's ability to detain terrorists and enemy combatants with no other alternative option given, he has made this country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. I am interested in working with the administration to come up with real solutions on how to deal with detainees if Guantanamo is closed, however there must be a solid plan put in place before making a decision that affects our national security.
Frank Lucas represents Oklahoma's Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. For more information, please visit www.house.gov/lucas.