Press Releases

May 23 2013

Background Material on Guantanamo Bay

HASC Assembles Record Of White House Inactivity Ahead Of NDU Speech / McKeon Statement Ahead Of Presidential Address

WASHINGTON- Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today made the following statement in reaction to early accounts of the President's counter-terrorism address scheduled for this afternoon.

"I am open to a proposal from the President regarding Guantanamo Bay, but that plan has to consist of more than political talking points.  The President doesn't need to remind Americans that Guantanamo is an imperfect solution, we all know that.  He must offer solid answers about what he thinks is a better option," McKeon said.  

"This speech was only necessary due to a deeply inconsistent counter-terrorism policy, one that maintains it is more humane to kill a terrorist with a drone, than detain and interrogate him at Guantanamo Bay.  To close GTMO, I need to know what the President intends to do with those terrorist detainees who are too dangerous to release but cannot be tried; how he will ensure terrorists transferred overseas do not return to the fight, and what he will do with terrorists we will capture in the future as well as those dangerous terrorists still held in Afghanistan? 

"Podium platitudes cannot make up for solid answers to these questions.  Over the past two years I have offered to engage with the White House on these issues no fewer than five times and have always been met with silence.  I hope today marks a change in that behavior," McKeon said.
On the suggestions that President Obama will issue new policies regulating the use of targeted operations outside of Afghanistan: "No Presidential policy makes up for good congressional oversight.  Vice-Chairman Mac Thornberry has taken the lead building a bi-partisan coalition behind legislation to provide that oversight. I join the legal and national security experts who have praised his bill and will be proud to include it in this year's defense authorization act," McKeon said.   
Detainee Facts: Armed Services Committee Resources on Detainee Policies and Guantanamo Bay

Recent Articles:

Unanswered Questions:

Terrorist Reengagement:
HASC report on terrorist detainees re-entering the fight: There has been a sharp increase in the number of transferred or released detainees who are suspected or confirmed of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities (from 7% in 2007 to 27.9% in 2012).  The U.S. Intelligence Community determined in 2010 that if detainees are transferred from GTMO, some will reengage.  A year-long HASC study of this topic resulted in legislative requirements for the executive branch to study this issue.

The Cost Of GTMO
Materials on the actual cost of detainee operations at GTMO vs. Other Locations

  • Letter to OMB Director Orzag from Mayor Bloomberg re: cost to detain and try five GTMO Detainees in New York City (over $200 million per year for 5 detainees) (linked below)

Overwhelming bi-partisan vote to block terrorist transfers to the United States
By a vote of 282-131, the U.S. House voted to block the transfer into the United States of 9-11 co-conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other detainees housed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Praise for Rep. Thornberry's Oversight of Sensitive Military Operations Act:

A Step Forward: "President Obama has said that he wishes to introduce greater openness into counter-terrorism operations, but he has not yet taken any substantial steps. Now legislators in both houses are undertaking their own initiatives. In the House, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), the vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has introduced legislation that would require the Defense Department to report to Congress all kill-or-capture operations it undertakes and deliver a written explanation of the legal basis and approval process used to place suspects on target lists….Mr. Thornberry’s measure would be a step forward." - Washington Post Editorial Board, 5/16/13

Bringing Drones Out of the Shadows: “The use of unmanned aircraft to kill suspected terrorists, a  practice that has dramatically escalated during the Obama administration, is receiving fresh and welcome scrutiny in Congress and elsewhere even as the number of drone strikes seems to be on the decline. Last week, Rep. William M. "Mac" Thornberry (R-Texas), the chairman of a House armed services subcommittee, introduced legislation to require the Pentagon to promptly inform Congress about every drone strike outside Afghanistan as well as about operations to kill or capture terrorists away from declared war zones.” - Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, 5/13/13

Should be Lauded: "On Friday, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), vice chairman of the house armed services committee (HASC), introduced a bi-partisan bill with twenty-nine co-sponsors. The full text of the bill (H.R. 1914) was only made available today by the Library of Congress. The “Oversight of Sensitive Military Operations Act” essentially formalizes into law existing oversight procedures for non-battlefield capture or targeted killing operations conducted by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces....Expanding and formalizing congressional oversight of targeted killings is overdue and should be lauded.” Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Blog Post, 5/14/13 
"What’s not to like? ….This legislation speaks directly and clearly to that concern, while also moving the ball forward at least a bit in terms of forcing the executive branch to explain to the armed services committees the legal and policy elements that govern its decisions regarding the designation of individuals or groups as objects of direct action.  The Obama administration should get behind this, not resist it” - Professor Robert Chesney, Lawfare Blog, 5/9/13

“I agree with Chesney that it is a big deal and a welcome step to regularizing…This proposed legislation is a first, and welcome, step toward getting Congress directly involved in that reform process” - Professor Kenneth Anderson, the Volokh Conspiracy Blog, 5/9/13