Friday, January 23, 2009

Shuster's Statement on President Obama's Decision to Close Guantanamo Bay

Yesterday, Congressman Shuster released the following statement after President Obama signed an executive order closing the Guanatanamo Bay detainee facility before figuring out what to do with the terrorists being held there. Shuster said:
“In signing this executive order, President Obama has put politics before national security and the safety of all Americans. Any action without a plan to deal with the violent and dangerous terrorist detainees is premature and shortsighted.

The fact that the Obama Administration cannot answer the question of where we would send Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the confessed and unrepentant mastermind of the September 11th attacks, should give everyone pause. ‘I don’t know’ is not a satisfactory answer by the Commander in Chief who is charged with the safety and security of the American people.

American security should always come first. Of the 520 detainees released from Guantanamo Bay, dozens been recaptured after returning to terrorism overseas. We are seeing them return to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan with the intent of killing American soldiers and if they get the chance, American civilians.

The Obama Administration must give me and the American people a valid answer on where these terrorists will be sent and how their movement will affect our national security.”
Today, the New York Times reports that one of the detainees already released from Guantanamo, Said Ali al-Shiri, has returned to terrorism and has become the deputy leader of Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch.
"Mr. Shihri, 35, trained in urban warfare tactics at a camp north of Kabul, Afghanistan, according to documents released by the Pentagon as part of his Guantánamo dossier. Two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he traveled to Afghanistan via Bahrain and Pakistan, and he later told American investigators that his intention was to do relief work, the documents say. He was wounded in an airstrike and spent a month and a half recovering in a hospital in Pakistan."
However, according to documents obtained by the Times, Shihri's idea of "relief work" doesn't seem quite right:
"The documents state that Mr. Shihri met with a group of “extremists” in Iran and helped them get into Afghanistan. They also say he was accused of trying to arrange the assassination of a writer, in accordance with a fatwa, or religious order, issued by an extremist cleric."
According to the Times article, Shihri's acitivites with Al Qaeda in Yemin isn't something to be taken lightly. Al Qaeda Yemin is gaining strength and poses to spread its jihad throughout the region:
"Long considered a haven for jihadists, Yemen, a desperately poor country in the southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, has witnessed a rising number of attacks over the past year. American officials say they suspect that Mr. Shihri may have been involved in the car bombings outside the American Embassy in Sana last September that killed 16 people, including six attackers."
The Times article underscores exactly why it is critical for our national security and the security of our allies, that we have a plan in place to deal with Guantanamo detainees before we decide to close the detainee facility. The terrorists at GITMO aren't your garden variety criminals. They pose a direct threat to our security and should be treated as such.

Posted by: Press Secretary

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