As Susan notes below, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the Obama White House not to go forward with plans to send a number of Yemeni terrorists now being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility back to their home country. But the Obama White House insists it will continue to send those Gitmo inmates to Yemen -- a country now recognized as a hotbed of terrorism so dangerous that the U.S. has decided to close its embassy there.
On Fox News Sunday, top White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said the administration "absolutely" intends to keep sending Guantanamo prisoners to Yemen. The administration has sent seven detainees to the country, Brennan said, with six of those sent in December. "Several of those detainees were put into Yemeni custody right away," Brennan said. He did not elaborate on how many is "several" or where the other Guantanamo inmates sent to Yemen might be today. But he said the U.S. has faith in Yemen to handle the situation. "We've had close dialogue with the Yemeni government about the expectations that we have as far as what they're supposed to do when these detainees go back," Brennan said.
Given that, host Chris Wallace asked, "You are going to consider on a case-by-case basis sending more Yemenis back to Yemen?"
"Absolutely," said Brennan.
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Brennan explained that, "Of the recent batch that we sent back, about six, many of them are in custody within the Yemeni system right now." He did not elaborate on the meaning of "many." "We will decide and determine when, when we should send additional people back," Brennan continued. "But we're going to do it in the right way, because Guantanamo should be closed. It was used as a propaganda tool by al-Qaeda, and the president is still committed to it." The message was clear: Guantanamo inmates are going back to Yemen.
On the bipartisan opposition to transfers to Yemen, Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman said on ABC today that "One thing we better learn from [the Detroit terrorism incident] is it would be irresponsible to take any of the Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo and send them back to Yemen." Also on ABC, Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, chairman of the intelligence subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee, said, "I think it is a bad time to send the 90 or so Yemenis back to Yemen."
Their position is shared by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who last week said, "Guantanamo detainees should not be released to Yemen at this time. It is too unstable." Beyond those leading Democrats, it's safe to say that most Republicans in both the House and Senate believe returning Guantanamo inmates to Yemen is a bad idea.