Today, U.S. Rep. Peter T. King, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, demanded that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen explain reports that the Defense Department may allow terrorist detainees held at Guantanamo to receive visits from wives and other family members.
In a letter to Gates and Mullen, King wrote: "As Chairman of the House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee, and the Representative from the Third District of New York, approximately 150 of whose constituents were murdered on September 11, 2001, I am gravely concerned with the potential damage to our national security posed by the prospect of the detained terrorists at Guantanamo Bay receiving family or conjugal visits."
The text of the letter sent to Gates and Mullen follows:
May 11, 2011
The Honorable Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
Admiral Michael G. Mullen
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1400
Re: Guantanamo Bay detainees' family members may be allowed to visit
Dear Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen:
I write to inquire about this evening's Washington Post report that the Department of Defense may allow terrorist detainees held at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay to receive visits from wives and family members.
In 2002 your predecessors Secretary Rumsfeld and Chairman Myers aptly described the original Guantanamo detainees, who soon numbered over 750 men, as "the worst of the worst" and "very dangerous people." Their assessment now seems correct, in light of the recidivism rate -- conservatively estimated as at least 25 percent -- of released Guantanamo detainees who returned to the fight against US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. One killed himself, and dozens of others, as a suicide bomber. Others re-joined al-Qaeda in leadership positions in Pakistan and Yemen, and menace our Homeland today. The remaining 172 terrorist detainees, including 48 especially designated for indefinite detention, must by any definition represent even worse, and more dangerous, unlawful enemy combatants.
The remaining terrorist detainees are known to physically attack guards and interrogators, to riot, and to attempt to pass sensitive information to at-large al-Qaeda members through the mails, counsel, and chaplains. Al-Qaeda detainees held at the military's Bagram Collection Point in Afghanistan have conducted successful prison breaks. Escaped detainees include Abu Yahya al-Libi, now assessed by some to be the number-two terrorist in al-Qaeda's senior leadership, just below Aiman al-Zawahiri.
As Chairman of the House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee, and the Representative from the Third District of New York, approximately 150 of whose constituents were murdered on September 11, 2001, I am gravely concerned with the potential damage to our national security posed by the prospect of the detained terrorists at Guantanamo Bay receiving family or conjugal visits.
Accordingly, I request that you provide answers to the following questions:
* By what theory does the Defense Department believe it will further US national security interests to allow terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay to receive such visits?
* Is this plan being given consideration at the initiative of the Defense Department? Another Cabinet department? Or the Executive Office of the President of the United States?
* Many of the terrorist detainees' family members are themselves suspected of involvement in terrorism. If an at-large terrorist suspect requests permission to visit Guantanamo Bay, will they be denied access, or detained themselves upon arrival?
* Who will fly the visitors to Guantanamo Bay? Who will pay the visitors' expenses there?
* What is the Defense Department's plan to thoroughly physically search the terrorist detainees' wives and/or family members upon their entry and exit from Guantanamo Bay, to prevent contraband (such as explosives, weapons or intelligence) from being brought in or out? Will visits between detainees and their wives and family members be monitored at all times, to include conjugal visits?
* What analysis has been given to how news of recent developments in the War on Terror, such as the death of Usama bin Laden, may adversely affect the security of US personnel at Guantanamo Bay, and/or ongoing intelligence collection activities there?
* What is the Defense Department's plan in the event the terrorist detainees' wives or family members, while at Guantanamo Bay, engage in protests, experience medical emergencies, request asylum, or commit crimes?
The enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay are being detained properly, under the laws of war, for the entire duration of our conflict with al-Qaeda. As unlawful enemy combatants, some of whom conspired to deliberately kill defenseless and innocent American civilians, many of them ought to have been hanged as war criminals long ago. The terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay include several involved in the 9/11 attacks, such as Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa Husawi, and Mohamedou Slahi. The terrorist detainees include Hambali, the butcher of Bali, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who orchestrated the perfidious attack on the USS Cole, and more.
These terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not gentlemen of honor; they are cowards and murderers of women and children. Even if they were lawful combatants, there is no provision by which the United States would be legally obligated, much less well-advised, to allow their wives and family members to visit them while they remain in detention, and the war al- Qaeda declared against America continues to rage. Despite the wonderful success of May 1, 2011, in which our brave Special Operators gave Usama bin Laden the violent death by American arms he so richly deserved, this war is not over.
It has been reliably reported that the initial intelligence that once further developed later led our SEALs to bin Laden's Pakistani redoubt was obtained, not only in distant locations from CIA detainees such as Abu Faraj al-Libi, but also at Guantanamo and from US military detainees such as Muhammad al-Qatani. It is therefore of critical importance that Guantanamo remain open and functional, not only as a site of detention for the remainder of this long conflict, but also as a place of vigorous intelligence collection. The keys to finding and killing bin Laden's successors may reside in the mind of a Guantanamo detainee.
Mr. Secretary and Mr. Chairman, I strongly urge you to reconsider any plan to allow Guantanamo Bay's terrorist detainees to receive family member visits. Please respond to this letter by May 20, 2011. If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Kevin Carroll on my Staff at (202)226-8417.
PETER T. KING