US releases suspected terrorists back to Yemen

The United States transferred five more detainees — all of them Yemenis — from the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Wednesday, the Defense Department announced. Their release intensified the dispute between the Obama administration and several Republican senators over President Obama’s recent flurry of transfers as he seeks to empty the American-run prison.
The latest transfers came one day after several Republican senators, including John McCain of Arizona, proposed legislation that would place a moratorium on the release of most of the prisoners held at Guantánamo. The move was widely interpreted as an attempt to halt the recent surge in releases.
The proposed legislation would bar transfers to Yemen for two years and would suspend virtually all transfers from Guantánamo for the same period, repealing the law that has allowed the administration to transfer 33 prisoners in the last year.
With the transfers on Wednesday, there are 122 prisoners at Guantánamo, down from 680 in 2003.
Four of the five Yemenis released Wednesday were transferred to Oman, which shares a border with Yemen. Officials declined to disclose the security assurances reached between the United States and Oman or detail how the men would be prevented from facing American troops on battlefields.
But the men were all cleared for release five years ago by the national security team made up of officials from the Pentagon, the State Department, the Justice Department and other national security agencies charged with reviewing the cases.
The four men released to Oman, according to a Pentagon news release, are Al Khadr Abdallah Muhammad al-Yafi, who has been held at Guantánamo without charges for 13 years, and Fadhel Hussein Saleh Hentif, Abd Al-Rahman Abdullah Au Shabati, and Mohammed Ahmed Salam, all of whom had been held for almost 13 years.
The fifth man, Akmed Abdul Qadei, was captured by the Pakistani authorities in March 2002, when he was 17. He was released to Estonia on Wednesday after being held without charges at Guantánamo for 12 years and seven months. The release of the five men continues the brisk pace of releases set by the administration in 2014, when more prisoners were freed than in any year since 2009, Mr. Obama’s first year in office.
Mr. Obama had campaigned on the promise to close the prison, which top administration officials have characterized as a blight on the country’s international standing. Congressional opposition slowed his plans, and any transfers were largely halted between 2011 and 2013, when the president renewed his efforts.
The increased pace has led Republicans to push back.
“This administration continues to irresponsibly release detainees from Guantánamo Bay,” Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, said Tuesday in announcing proposed legislation to stop the releases. “Many of these detainees have returned to the battlefields from which they came and are looking for ways to kill Americans and our allies.”
Administration officials dispute that charge. Clifford Sloan, who until last month was the State Department’s envoy for closing the Guantánamo prison, said in a New York Times Op-Ed article last week that “of the detainees transferred during this administration, more than 90 percent have not been suspected, much less confirmed, of committing any hostile activities after their release.”
Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said he had been re-evaluating his views about the prison since a visit there in December. “Like most Americans, I took a broad approach to thinking about Guantánamo,” he said. “It was ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ I knew I was safe here, and thought to just put these people on another island in Cuba and keep them there.”
But Mr. Manchin said his views were changing. “We’re up to $3.3 million per
detainee. The average annual cost per prisoner in a maximum-security prison in the
United States is $78,000. And that’s at the most expensive supermax prison.”

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