WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans have been killed by prisoners released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Obama administration official told lawmakers Wednesday, triggering sharp criticism from Republicans opposed to shuttering the facility.
Testifying before the GOP-led House Foreign Affairs Committee, Paul Lewis, the Defense Department’s special envoy for the closure of the detention center, declined to provide details and did not say whether the incidents occurred before or after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.
“What I can tell you is unfortunately there have been Americans that have died because of (Guantanamo) detainees,” Lewis said during an exchange with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.
“When anybody dies it is tragedy. We don’t want anybody to die because we transfer detainees,” Lewis said. “However, it’s the best judgment and the considered judgment of this administration and the previous administration that … we should close” the Guantanamo detention center.
Lewis testified before the committee with Lee Wolosky, the State Department’s special envoy for closing the detention center.
There are 91 men held at Guantanamo, down from nearly 250 when Obama assumed the presidency. Those left include 36 who are cleared for release if security conditions can be met in the countries where they will settle. Seven face trial by military commission, including five charged with planning and supporting the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. Three others have been convicted.
The Director of National Intelligence reported this month that 5 percent of Guantanamo prisoners released since January 2009, when the U.S. began using the multi-agency screening process, have re-engaged in terrorism and 8 percent are suspected of it. That compares to 21 percent confirmed and 14 percent suspected under the earlier system.