An Obama administration official responsible for overseeing the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Wednesday that released detainees have killed Americans.
Paul Lewis, the Defense Department's special envoy for the closure of the detainee program at GITMO, said to Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA):
“What I can tell you is unfortunately there have been Americans that have died because of [Guantánamo] detainees.”
“When anybody dies it is tragedy. We don't want anybody to die because we transfer detainees,” Lewis added.
And while Lewis did not elaborate on the exact circumstances of specific deaths, nor did he say under which administration the deaths occurred, he did note that “most of the detainees transferred from Guantánamo were transferred by the Bush Administration[.]”
Despite acknowledging transfers have resulted in the loss of American lives, Lewis said in his opening statement that closing GITMO's detention facility is a “national security imperative,” adding:
“The President and the leadership of his national security team believe that the continued operation of the detention facility at Guantánamo weakens our national security by damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, draining resources, and providing violent extremists with a propaganda tool.”
Currently, 91 detainees sit in the detention facility, many of whom are part of the too dangerous to transfer list. One of those individuals is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who the 9/11 Commission report identified as the principal architect of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
While the facility cannot be officially closed without Congress repealing several laws that prevent such action, the large number of transfers and released terrorists has displayed blowback.
Still, the administration persists that the facility must close. “We believe the issue is not whether to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility; the issue is how to do it,” Lewis said.