WASHINGTON — A U.S. official on Thursday defended the Obama administration's efforts to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, saying a minimal number of released detainees are suspected of returning to the fight.
Lee Wolosky, the State Department's special envoy for closing Guantanamo, told Congress that the latest intelligence report on the issue indicates 19 of some 144 detainees who were transferred out of the prison during President Barack Obama's tenure have either re-engaged in terrorist or insurgent activity or are suspected of returning to the fight.
Wolosky faced intense questioning from lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who believe the president is being reckless about emptying the facility.
Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., argued that some countries are not prepared to track the detainees after their release. Royce noted that one detainee sent to Uruguay had left three times, and his whereabouts are currently unknown.
"Many countries just aren't up to the job," Royce said. "And a diplomatic agreement to do the job isn't worth the paper it is written on if a country doesn't have the resources or training to keep committed terrorists from returning to the battlefield."
New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the committee's ranking Democrat, said the re-engagement rate was higher during the George W. Bush administration, which transferred 500 out of the prison. "Under no circumstances is the Obama administration simply opening the gate and releasing dangerous terrorists onto the street," Engel said.
Wolosky said the latest unclassified Intelligence Committee report said seven, including one who is dead, out of 144 are "confirmed" of returning to the fight. He said 12, including one who is dead, of the 144 are "suspected" of re-engaging in terrorist or insurgent activity after being released from Guantanamo.