U.S. Congressman MIKE POMPEO, Representing the 4th District of Kansas

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Pompeo and Fellow Veterans Send Letter to Joint Chiefs on GTMO Detainees

16 House military veterans urge Joint Chiefs of Staff to seek legal guidance before following any order to release GTMO detainees

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Washington, November 23, 2015 | comments

November 23, 2015

Contact: Caroline Taylor

(202) 225-6216 (Office)

(202) 590-0609 (Mobile)

16 House military veterans urge Joint Chiefs of Staff to seek legal guidance before following any order to release GTMO detainees

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo (KS-04) today led a letter signed by 15 fellow veterans in Congress, urging the Joint Chiefs of Staff to seek appropriate legal advice before following any executive order to transfer Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) detainees to the United States.  In the letter, Pompeo outlines several laws, signed by President Obama, that make such a transfer illegal.  This comes on the heels of comments made last week by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who testified that the administration is currently legally prohibited from transferring detainees to the United States. 

He was joined in sending the letter by: Brian Babin (TX-36), Jim Bridenstine (OK-01), Mike Conaway (TX-11), Rick Crawford (AR-01), Andy Harris (MD-01), Darrell Issa (CA-49), Bill Johnson (OH-06), Peter King (NY-02), Pete Olson (TX-22), Steven Palazzo (MS-04), Joseph R. Pitts (PA-16), David P. Roe (TN-01), Thomas J. Rooney (FL-17), Don Young (AK), Ryan Zinke (MT).

Following the release of the letter, Pompeo issued the following statement, “President Obama has already attempted and failed to transfer GTMO prisoners to the United States. The fact that the President sought to bring terrorists, including the mastermind of 9/11 attacks, to the United States is indicative of his misguided, and outright dangerous approach to our national security.  As the urgency of the threat presented by Islamic extremism grows, we cannot afford to have the commander-in-chief issue executive orders in direct contravention of laws that he enacted.  I encourage the Joint Chiefs of Staff carry out an exhaustive legal review before implementing any executive order transferring these dangerous terrorists to the United States. In the words of John Adams, “We are a government of laws, not men,” and the express will of Congress should prevail over the express will of one man.”           

Text of the letter below:

 Dear Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

We write to you as Members of Congress who previously had – and in some cases, still have – the honor and privilege of serving this nation in uniform.

It is of great concern to us that President Obama may be considering ordering a transfer of detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay to the United States via executive order.  It is our view that such an order, if given, would violate legislation that the President signed into law prohibiting the use of Department of Defense funds for such a purpose.  This week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch acknowledged that the administration is legally prohibited from bringing detainees from Guantanamo Bay, telling the House Judiciary Committee: “With respect to individuals being transferred to the United States, the law does not currently allow that.”  Despite these comments, Lynch maintained that closing the detention facility at Guantanamo “is something that is a part of the administration’s policy.”

During the course of his presidency, and during his campaign prior to assuming office, Mr. Obama has repeatedly announced his intent to shut down operations at GTMO.  In his first term, President Obama sought to transfer several high profile GTMO detainees, including the masterminds of the 9-11 attacks on the United States, to New York City for incarceration and trial.  He also attempted to transfer other GTMO detainees to a prison facility in Standish, Michigan, and previously contemplated transferring detainees to a prison facility in Thomson, Illinois.

All of these efforts were met with strong bipartisan opposition by the American people and Congress, resulting in the passage of several successive pieces of legislation, which President Obama signed into law, prohibiting the use of Department of Defense funds to transfer GTMO detainees to the United States or to modify/construct facilities within the United States for that purpose.  These restrictions are still in effect until the end of calendar year 2015, per Sections 1032 and 1033 of the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 113-291).  The FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Obama has indicated he will sign into law, puts similar restrictions into effect until December 31, 2016.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) contemplates that with respect to enlisted personnel and officers in the United States armed forces, when an order given by one’s superiors comes into conflict with the laws of this nation, the latter prevail.  We believe that in our democracy -- in which governance is undertaken, in the words of Founding Father John Adams, by “…a government of laws, and not of men…” – that understanding necessarily applies equally to orders given by the Commander-in-Chief.

We therefore respectfully encourage you in the strongest terms to seek appropriate legal advice, prior to executing any order from President Obama to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States against the express will of Congress and the law of the land.



For access to this release and Rep. Pompeo’s other statements, click here.

To stay up-to-date on Rep. Pompeo’s work in Kansas and Washington, follow him on Twitter and YouTube.

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