Why Is the U.S. Still Releasing GTMO Detainees?

By Dan Cadman on July 19, 2016

Dozens of the Islamic terrorists taken into custody by military authorities in theaters of war such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and placed into the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO, or “Gitmo”) have been released into the custody of various and sundry other nations around the globe upon assurances from those governments that they would undertake to monitor the former detainees to ensure they did not reengage in jihad. The releases have almost all taken place during the Obama administration. This is no surprise, given the president's almost missionary zeal to see GTMO closed.

Consistent with the president's wishes, in February of this year, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, pushing to obtain congressional concurrence to close GTMO and transfer the remaining detainees to “secure” facilities in the United States, testified that the terrorists who remain there were too hardcore for release elsewhere in the world.

There are strong reasons not to see such individuals transferred into the United States, despite the president's desire to the contrary, as well as serious questions as to the wisdom of having effected many of the transfers that have already taken place, given that a number of the released detainees slipped away from the apparently ineffectual “monitoring” by their host governments and suspicions that a dozen or more have in fact returned to jihad and terror.

Two recent events have come to light which, when juxtaposed, show how startlingly out of touch our president and his cabinet are about the clear and present danger these detainees constitute, and how willing they are to sacrifice public safety and national security in favor of the abstract philosophical notions that drive their desire to close GTMO.

Event #1: Hurriyet Daily News, the oldest English language news media in Turkey, reports that Turkish authorities have arrested Airat Vakhitov — a Russian Muslim of Tatar extraction and former GTMO detainee who was captured in Afghanistan fighting side-by-side with the Taliban — for conspiring with others, including the suicide bombers who attacked the Istanbul airport.

Vakhitov was turned over to the Russian authorities, who on receipt subjected him to trial: he was ordered released from detention for lack of evidence of involvement in terrorism. Given that this took place in Russia, whose system of justice is not known for its independence from the organs of government, and which has its own ongoing war with Muslims in the Caucasus, one wonders whether the United States withheld from the Russians the necessary evidence, which was undoubtedly classified, for fear of compromising sources and methods.

Once released, Vakhitov fled Russia for the Middle East, allegedly claiming asylum in an unknown country, from whence he meandered his way into Turkey where he claims to have been doing “humanitarian” work to aid war-torn Syrians, and that this arrest is simply the latest in a series of miscarriages of justice. One supposes it's just a matter of how the word “humanitarian” is defined — you know, it's just like the formulation, “it all depends on what the meaning of 'is' is.” Play with words enough, you can arrive at virtually any permutation of “truth” you want to achieve or depict.

Vakhitov's not the only one to have disappeared from the radar of the “hosting” governments of released detainees. The same happened to Syrian national Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, who was handed over to Uruguay for safekeeping. Hard to say how many others have also vanished, because some have been given over to Middle Eastern countries whose own dalliances with Islamic supremacists are strongly suspected. But these cases represent what is fundamentally wrong with the premise that such individuals can be trusted, or that other governments are up to the task of watching these very dangerous men.

Event #2: Notwithstanding Secretary Carter's congressional testimony that the remaining terrorists at GTMO are too dangerous for release, the media have broken the story that three more detainees are being handed over to the care of other nations—two to Italy and one to Serbia.

According to the Daily Caller, a Pentagon statement said that the releases only occurred after comprehensive interagency reviews resulting in a unanimous decision of the participants. I'm confused: how does that happen if they're too dangerous for release? Is it because the president, not having gotten Congress to budge on transfers to the continental U.S., says “we're closing the place down, hell or high water, and be sure this gets done”?

Now consider this. Thousands upon thousands of unvetted migrants are queued up in Serbia right now, because Hungary has shut its land border with that country and is only letting a trickle through at a time. These migrants are overflowing the temporary camps established for them inside Serbia, which is having to spend an inordinate amount of its own official time and attention policing and keeping order in these camps since Hungary is so inconsiderate as to take its own sovereignty seriously.

Similarly, Italy has its own crisis of unvetted migrants arriving by the thousands by sea.

How long before these three new releases also disappear from the distracted eyes of Serbian or Italian officials, quite possibly into the mix of new arrivals whose own identities and bonafides are pretty much unknown? To paraphrase Mao Tse Tung, “The jihadi must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.”

One has to wonder exactly what kind of wisdom was exercised by our defense and national security officials in making the decision to send hardened jihadists to these particular countries. Or did they care?