An Obama administration official on Wednesday admitted to lawmakers that some Americans have been killed at the hands of prisoners released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center who re-engaged in terrorism.
Paul Lewis, the Department of Defense’s special envoy for Guantanamo Closure, told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that some Americans have died at the hand of at least one former detainee, but he would not give any specifics in an unclassified setting.
He did not say whether the deaths occurred before or after President Obama took over the White House in 2009.
“What I can tell you is unfortunately there have been Americans that have died because of (Guantanamo) detainees,” Mr. Lewis said during an exchange with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, according to The Associated Press.
Despite the killings, Mr. Lewis said the administration still advocated for the controversial prison facility to be closed.
“When anybody dies it is tragedy. We don’t want anybody to die because we transfer detainees,” Mr. 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.
Mr. Rohrabacher argued that the administration is allowing for the deaths of innocents in their plans to close the facility.
“As far as I’m concerned, if one child is saved because she would have been blown up by someone being released, it’s better to keep all 90 of those people in Gitmo,” Mr. Rohrabacher responded, adding that the scenario “disgusts” him, the Washington Examiner reported.
There are currently 91 remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Thirty-six have been cleared for release, and another 10 are currently sitting military commission trials. The rest have been deemed unfit for release.
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.
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