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King livid over Guantanamo family visitation plan
The Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is demanding information about a reported plan by the Department of Defense to allow personal visits by wives and family members to terror detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) fired off a letter on May 11 to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen demanding an explanation of newspaper reports that said the Department of Defense would allow detainees to receive personal visits from wives and family members.
A Washington Post report on May 11 quoted anonymous U.S. congressional aides saying the Pentagon was considering such a plan and that it might be organized through the International Red Cross. The U.S. allows face-to-face visits between family members and detainees at the detention center at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, according to the report.
That didn’t deter King, however, who demanded an explanation of the plans from Gates and Mullen.
“As Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee, and the Representative from the Third District of New York, approximately 150 of whose constituents were murdered on September 11, 2001, I am gravely concerned with the potential damage to our national security posed by the prospect of the detained terrorists at Guantanamo Bay receiving family or conjugal visits,” said the letter.
King said some of the “worst of the worst” terrorists that have been captured by the U.S. are in the Guantanamo Bay facility. He also noted that prisoners at the Bagram Collection Point in Afghanistan recently pulled off a successful prison break.
He said although some of the detainees at Guantanamo have been released, the remainder have shown a propensity for violence and subterfuge and some of those released returned to fighting. “The remaining terrorist detainees are known to physically attack guards and interrogators, to riot, and to attempt to pass sensitive information to at-large al-Qaeda members through the mails, counsel, and chaplains,” he said.
Remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay include Al-Qaeda 9/11 attack architect Khalid Shaykh Muhammad; Al Qaeda captain Abu Zubaydah; 9/11 attack facilitator Ramzi bin al-Shib; suspected 9/11 attack financier Mustafa Husawi; Bali-bomber Hambali; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who orchestrated the attack on the USS Cole.
King asked Gates if the Defense Department believed personal visits to the detainees from family were in the interests of national security. He also wanted to know how detainee family members, many of whom, he said, were terror suspects themselves, would be handled. “If an at-large terrorist suspect requests permission to visit Guantanamo Bay, will they be denied access, or detained themselves upon arrival?” he asked.
Physical searches, the passing of information on the war on terror, and possible protests by relatives and family members while they are at the facility were also on King’s mind.
Along with the operational questions, King also inquired about more prosaic matters.
“Who will fly the visitors to Guantanamo Bay? Who will pay the visitors’ expenses there?” he asked.