Congressman Frank Wolf (R., Va.) is a stalwart on national security. As reports swirl that the Obama administration is about to release the Uighur detainees (and perhaps others) into the United States, Representative Wolf took to the House floor at the end of last week, called for an urgently needed inquiry before any trained terrorists are released, and related that Attorney General Eric Holder is stonewalling him — as the administration plays fast and loose with the declassification of information. Here’s some of what Wolf said:
Madam Speaker, it is my understanding that President Obama’s decision regarding the release into the United States of a number of Uyghur detainees held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 could be imminent. The New York Times, ABC News and others news outlets have reported that the president will soon release these terrorists into the United States, and yet this Congress has yet to be briefed on this decision. This is unacceptable.
Let’s be clear: these terrorists would not be held in prisons but released into neighborhoods. They should not be released at all into the United States. Do Members realize who these people are? There have been published reports that the Uyghurs were members of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, a designated terrorist organization affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Releasing the Uyghurs is a matter of grave concern – a matter which prompted me to send a letter to the president last Friday … detailing my profound reservations about this course of action and the threat it could pose to the American people. In the letter, I called on the President to declassify all information about the capture and detention of the Uyghur detainees, including a threat assessment for each detainee who would be released into the United States. The American people deserve the facts about these detainees and the risk they pose to our communities.
Following the precedent that the administration set in declassifying the Office of Legal Counsel interrogation memos, it has a moral obligation to the American people to declassify all relevant information related to the Uyghur detainees. This administration has already shown that it has no qualms about releasing selected classified documents. The White House just can’t pick and choose what classified information it deems worthy of releasing. It can’t have it both ways. It shouldn’t release information that conveniently makes their case without making information with profound national security implications available to the American people.
After learning that this decision was imminent, I requested briefings from a number of relevant agencies – but all have told me that the Department of Justice is preventing them from speaking to me directly on this issue. Is the Attorney General preventing agencies from answering Members’ questions? This is not the transparency and accountability the president promised, nor is it the open and constructive relationship he claims to want with Congress. This is, at best, poor judgment and, at worst, dangerous hypocrisy. This is not change. This is an administration intent on keeping Congress and the American people in the dark about critically-important national security issues….
The Attorney General is ‘slow rolling’ information as terrorist detainees are released into the United States. I am not alone in my concerns about the consequences of releasing these detainees into the U.S. According to a LA Times article published last week, “the Homeland Security Department has registered concerns about the plan” among other government agencies.
Information I have received indicates that the Uyghurs may be more dangerous than the public has been led to believe. Just last night, “60 Minutes” had a disturbing segment which touched on the radicalization of Guantanamo Bay detainees. The story indicated that in Saudi Arabia alone, of the 117 men returned from Guantanamo, 11 have shown up again on Saudi Arabia’s most wanted terrorist list.
Any intelligence assessment of the Uyghurs must take into account not only their previous training at terrorist camps but their potential subsequent exposure to the likes of Khalid Sheik Mohammed – the mastermind of 9/11 who also took pleasure in beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The American people have a right to know all the facts.
I fear expediency is clouding judgment – and this is inexcusable in a post-9/11 world. The stakes are simply too high for the administration to reasonably think that the American people should simply take their word for it that these men pose no security threat. Again, I call on the Obama Administration to declassify and release all information regarding the capture, detention, and threats posed by the Uyghurs or others they may consider releasing into the U.S. The American people have a right to know everything there is to know about these people who could potentially be released into neighborhoods. We can’t forget what happened on September 11th.