Americans ‘have died because of Gitmo detainees’ says Pentagon official in charge of closing Gitmo

© Bob Strong
A senior Pentagon official told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees has led to American deaths, but nonetheless urged legislators to close the military prison.

Unfortunately, there have been Americans that have died because of Gitmo detainees,” Paul Lewis, the Department of Defense’s special envoy for Guantanamo’s closure, said under questioning during a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, the Washington Post reported.

Lewis did not elaborate on how many Americans had died at the hands of Gitmo detainees, but did tell Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), “Sir, when anybody dies, it’s a tragedy and we don’t want anybody to die because we transfer detainees.

However, it’s the best judgment and the considered judgment of this administration and the previous administration that … we should close Gitmo,” Lewis added.

A total of 779 men have been detained at the Cuba-based prison since it opened on January 11, 2002, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The vast majority, 532, were released by the Bush administration, while an additional 151 prisoners have been released since the Obama administration began the last leg of closing the prison. The remaining 91 are the subject of an intense debate over whether releasing them would create a threat for the US.

One former Gitmo detainee, Abu Sufian bin Qumu, sometimes spelled Sufyan bin Qumu, was recaptured in 2013 as a suspect in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead on September 11, 2012.

Qumu had been released to Libyan authorities in 2007, but was freed in 2008. US officials told the Washington Post that they believed Qumu’s men had been in Benghazi at the time of the attack on the American Consulate.

Qumu would not be the first Gitmo detainee to return to terrorist activities. Of the 532 released by the Bush administration, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) reported that 111 were confirmed to have resumed their lives as terrorists. Of those, 29 are dead, 25 have been recaptured, and 57 remain at large.

Of the 144 released under the Obama administration, seven are confirmed to have returned to militant activities and 12 are suspected of having done so. In total, the DNI believes that about 30 percent of freed detainees have returned to terrorist activities.