01.27.16

Senator Lankford: Cut Foreign Aid to Nations Who Mishandle GITMO Terrorists

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today called on Senate Appropriations leaders to cut taxpayer-funded foreign aid for nations who mishandle terrorists formerly held at America’s Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

Earlier this month, two detainees were transferred from Guantanamo Bay to the west African nation of Ghana. To better ensure that terrorists don’t return to the fight, Lankford and three other Senators wrote a letter calling for the reduction of foreign aid to Ghana, or any other nation, if those prisoners escape or return to terrorism. Today’s letter is also meant to send a message to other nations who are applying to house prisoners, that their standard for detention must be extremely high.

President Obama has repeatedly attempted to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility but has been thwarted by Congress. In March, Lankford visited the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and introduced the Guantanamo Bay Recidivism Prevention Act of 2015, to improve the monitoring of former Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred to foreign countries to prevent them from returning to terrorism. In addition to serving on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Lankford also serves on the Intelligence Committee and Homeland Security Committee.

A PDF of the letter is available here, and the text is below:

 

The Honorable Thad Cochran

Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee

S-128, The Capitol, Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Lindsey Graham

Chairman, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Senate Appropriations Committee

131 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairman Cochran and Chairman Graham,

We are concerned about the Administration’s transfer of two Guantanamo terrorist detainees to Ghana on January 6, 2016, and the Ghanaian government’s capacity to hold, monitor, and ensure these terrorist detainees do not reengage in terrorism against the United States and our allies.

As you know, the Administration transferred Yemeni detainees Mahmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef, a Taliban fighter and member of Osama bin Laden’s “55th Brigade” who threatened to cut the throats of American guards and their families upon release, and Khalid Mohammed Salih al Dhuby, an al Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan who reportedly threatened to kill guards at Guantanamo Bay, to Ghana after President John Dramani Mahama agreed to host them for two years.  While the Administration’s own Guantanamo task force neither cleared Atef and Dhuby of their involvement in terrorism nor recommend them for outright release, U.S. Embassy in Ghana spokesman Daniel Fennell inexplicably told Ghanaian mediathe “current assessment is that these two people coming to Ghana do not pose a security threat.”

President Mahama, who also maintains these terrorist detainees pose no threat, asserts they are housed safely on a security compound.  The security procedures for the terrorist detainees’ compound remain unclear, however.  What is clear is Ghana’s Foreign Ministry says their nation will accept the terrorist detainees “for a period of two years, after which they may leave the country.”

While Ghana has not previously held terrorist detainees, the nation’s prison system provides an illustrative indicator of the country’s limitations in credibly detaining and monitoring these hardened terrorists.  The prison system is plagued by decay and mismanagement.  The majority of Ghana’s prison facilities were constructed during the colonial era and lack the modern infrastructure required to hold inmates.  According to one third-party study, the country’s prison system operates at 145 percent capacity nationally, with some prisons operating up to 300 percent over capacity.  In recent years, 30 or more prisoners have escaped from Ghana’s prisons annually.  It is clear no facility in the world, let alone in Ghana, could detain terrorists as securely as Guantanamo.

We are grateful for Ghana’s friendship and the strong bilateral relationship between our two countries.  As members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, we have consistently voted to support foreign assistance to Ghana.  However, with the U.S. Intelligence Community in agreement that 30 percent of the terrorists released from Guantanamo are known or suspected to have re-joined the fight against Americans, it is reckless to release more of these prisoners, particularly when the ability of the host country to hold and monitor these detainees is in doubt.

We therefore request the Committee to include in the fiscal year 2017 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill, language that would reduce assistance to Ghana by $10 million per detainee in the event either of these detainees escapes from confinement or reengages in terrorism while in Ghana’s custody.  Such language would incentivize Ghanaian authorities to allocate appropriate resources to closely and securely monitor the activities of these terrorist detainees.

Thank you for your leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.  We appreciate your consideration of our request.

 

Sincerely,

Senators James Lankford, Mark Kirk, Roy Blunt and Steve Daines

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