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Rubio, Burr, McCain Demand Answers On Missing Gitmo Detainee & Obama Policy

Jul 14, 2016 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today expressed their concerns to the Obama Administration regarding the case of missing former Guantanamo Bay detainee Jihad Ahmad Dhiab, who was an Al Qaeda weapons smuggler before being detained and has expressed his desire to return to the Middle East to reengage in terrorist activity.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry, the senators requested clarification on the administration’s policy as well as information on what is being done to locate and capture Dhiab, who poses a threat to U.S. national security and Americans at home and abroad.  

“We are deeply concerned about the case of missing former Guantanamo Bay detainee Jihad Ahmad Dhiab,” the senators wrote. “Dhiab, a Syrian national, was a weapons smuggler for al-Qai’da before being captured in 2002 near the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan and subsequently transferred to the detention center at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba as an unlawful enemy combatant. In 2014 he was released from GTMO and resettled in Uruguay as a ‘refugee.’

“Despite repeated warnings from the Intelligence Community concerning Dhiab’s behavior as a detainee, terrorist past, and animosity toward the United States, the Administration proceeded with his release to Uruguay,” the senators continued. “Congress has repeatedly requested copies of the formal written agreement between the Administration and Uruguayan Government detailing the circumstances of Dhiab’s (and five other former GTMO detainees received by Uruguay) release and resettlement and has yet to receive those documents or an adequate response.”

A PDF of Rubio’s letter is available here and the full text is below:

July 13, 2016

The Honorable Ash Carter
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Carter and Secretary Kerry:

We are deeply concerned about the case of missing former Guantanamo Bay detainee Jihad Ahmad Dhiab.  Dhiab, a Syrian national, was a weapons smuggler for al-Qai’da before being captured in 2002 near the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan and subsequently transferred to the detention center at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba as an unlawful enemy combatant. In 2014 he was released from GTMO and resettled in Uruguay as a “refugee.”

Despite repeated warnings from the Intelligence Community concerning Dhiab’s behavior as a detainee, terrorist past, and animosity toward the United States, the Administration proceeded with his release to Uruguay. Congress has repeatedly requested copies of the formal written agreement between the Administration and Uruguayan Government detailing the circumstances of Dhiab’s (and five other former GTMO detainees received by Uruguay) release and resettlement and has yet to receive those documents or an adequate response.   

While in Montevideo, Dhiab staked out the U.S. Embassy to “protest” his previous detention, made repeated derogatory remarks about the United States, and expressed his desire to return to the Middle East and reengage in terrorism. Dhiab is reportedly no longer in Uruguay and his current whereabouts are unknown.  We remain concerned that he may threaten the Olympics in Brazil, seek to utilize illicit trafficking networks to work his way north toward the United States, or attempt to travel to Turkey, Syria or Iraq.  We urge you to take all necessary steps with our South American partners to reacquire Dhiab and ensure that he is effectively monitored and, if appropriate, detained.

Given the significant security concerns highlighted by this case, we request that your respective staffs provide an update briefing on this case to the relevant congressional committees as soon as possible.  Please also provide written answers to the following questions:

1. Please provide in writing the exact terms of any agreement between the U.S. Government and Government of Uruguay to monitor all former detainees in country to include the type and extent of monitoring and which elements of the Uruguayan government would be responsible for tracking the former detainees.  If you do not have such an agreement, please acknowledge that in writing.

2. Has the monitoring of these resettled detainees in Uruguay changed with the election of President Tabare Vazquez?

3. What steps has the Administration taken to relocate and apprehend Jihad Dhiab? 

4. What have the governments of Uruguay and Brazil done to locate Dhiab and what is the United States doing to assist those efforts?

5. Please list all identification and travel documents these former detainees currently possess, and are eligible to receive from Uruguay or any other government.

6. Please list all countries where Dhiab may travel visa-free.

7. Please list all known terrorists Dhiab has been in contact with since being released to Uruguay. 

8. Is the Administration considering releasing any current detainees to any other nations in the Western Hemisphere? If so, which countries have been identified and what agreements or requirements have been established by the Administration and the host country?

We would appreciate an unclassified response to this letter with a classified annex, if necessary. 

Thank you for your attention to this request.

Sincerely,
Marco Rubio
United States Senator

Richard Burr
United States Senator

John McCain
United States Senator