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McCain, Graham and Lieberman Twist Facts for Political Gain

It’s not exactly surprising that some Republicans would be using the failed Christmas terror plot to grandstand and try to thwart President Obama’s plans to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, but there’s something particularly disconcerting when leading senators such as John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) intentionally distort the facts in their attempt to make their point.

As I noted yesterday, the three sent a letter to President Obama yesterday — and blasted a press release to reporters — calling on the president to halt the “planned” transfer of six Yemeni detainees back to their home country, because it turns out that Yemen is chock full of terrorists. The three only learned this, it appears, after reading that the would-be Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spent some time there. But there’s no way that the three senators and their aides and press secretaries did not know that the Obama administration had already sent back the six Yemeni detainees in question at least ten days earlier. Just do a Google search — it was in thousands of news outlets around the world. And that was following a press release issued by the Department of Justice on Dec. 20.

What’s more, the six detainees, who the senators said in their letter (without naming them) “have been identified as threats to the United States and its allies” had actually all been determined by the administration’s Guantanamo Detainees Review Task Force not to be threats to the U.S. government. One of them had even been ordered freed by a U.S. federal judge.

Yesterday I searched for hours to find out if there were six more detainees hidden somewhere that the administration was about to send back, some particularly dangerous Yemenis about to leave Gitmo that maybe these senators knew about and the rest of us didn’t. But no, there aren’t. The Justice Department and lawyers representing Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo, at least, knew nothing about such impending plans for another group of six. And when I asked Graham’s press office just which six Yemeni detainees they were talking about — Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop couldn’t name them, either.

The only logical conclusion is that the three senators were referring to six detainees who’d already been sent back to Yemen — and that they were doing so purely to try to embarrass the Obama administration and create yet another obstacle to closing down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. As I wrote back in February, what to do with the Yemenis, many of whom the administration has determined are not dangerous, remains one of the administration’s biggest obstacles to closing the prison camp.

None of this is new, and certainly McCain, who as a presidential candidate last year actively campaigned to close Gitmo, knew that. Apparently that won’t stop anyone from using a high-profile averted holiday disaster for his own political gain.

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