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Let’s keep terrorists where they belong

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

Obaidullah is an al Qaeda terrorist operative. He specializes in the creation of improvised explosive devices (IED), which are manmade bombs that have wreaked havoc on U.S. service members and our allies during conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obaidullah was captured by U.S. Special Forces during a raid on his compound. During the raid, 23 anti-tank landmines and a number of detonator schematics were found.

After his capture in 2002, Obaidullah was locked up in a prison at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The exact place a terrorist belongs.

Unfortunately, on Aug. 15, 2016, Obaidullah was transferred out of Guantanamo Bay and released to the United Arab Emirates – a move that potentially puts a terrorist back on the battlefield.

The story of Obaidullah has become all too common in recent years as President Barack Obama continues his efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The president’s pledge to close Guantanamo started as a campaign promise in 2007. After his election, he signed an executive order declaring that the prison would be closed in one year.

The president planned to bring the prisoners to a new facility here in the United States. Not surprisingly, no state wanted to be the one selected to house terrorists. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were up in arms.

So, thanks to bipartisan opposition from Congress and resistance by intelligence agencies, efforts to close the prison have so far proved unsuccessful, but that has not stopped the president from continuing to release prisoners to other countries.

As we enter the remaining days of the Obama presidency, I fear the president may try a new trick to close the prison, which would diminish our national security and put American citizens at risk.

I’m pleased to report the House of Representatives last week passed legislation that would stop all efforts to close Guantanamo Bay and transfer prisoners to other countries. This legislation is necessary and required in order to keep the American people, and our allies around the world safe.

While information on the status of released detainees is hard to come by, it is clear that some of those detainees released from Guantanamo have returned to terrorist activity.

In fact, an official from the Obama Administration testified before Congress that at least 12 individuals released from Guantanamo have gone on to launch attacks and kill Americans.

During testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the official testified that “what I can tell you is unfortunately, there have been Americans that have died because of Gitmo prisoners.”

For example, it was a former Guantanamo detainee who helped organize and plan the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans lost their lives during that attack.

It is also important to point out that 41 of the 61 detainees remaining at Guantanamo are considered especially dangerous. They have been labeled “high risk” for returning to terrorist activity and “untransferable” because of their past records. These are the worst of the worst.

Ultimately, I fear this president may once again put politics above national security. I fear he is more interested in keeping a campaign promise than he is in keeping the American people safe.

I was pleased to see our bill to block the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison pass with bipartisan support, and I am hopeful the Senate will also act on our legislation.

We must keep these terrorists locked up where they can do no more harm. Anything less than that would be a grave mistake.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.