tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN March 24, 2016 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT
what i'm getting at is, there's a push factor -- actually, there's a pull factor by having low standards in this country for allowing immigrants to come in. but there's also a push factor because there's an industry down there in central merica. it's much more profitable than smuggling drugs. and most of these countries don't have human trafficking laws in place down there. so they can do this and there's no real dire consequences as there would be if they were trafficking in drugs or uns. i'm asking my border patrol folks, is this the nature of the problem? what's a greater factor, the pull factor of the united states being lax, or the push factor of the industry down there that's actually pushing people up to our border? mr. vitiello: thank you, congressman. we found this our reporting that there's a multitude of factors
that drive folks away from their home country and then, like you say, get pulled into the u.s. so smugglers have taken advantage of the situation where people believe that if they came to the united states, they would be able to stay and the smugglers, we have reported that smugglers are using that concept to draw more people that might otherwise not consider the trip. mr. lynch: ok. mr. mcdraw: clearly the mexican cartels have adopted people as a commodity. and human trafficking clearly is a core business model of the mexican cartels. the pull part is they want to encourage as many to come across, because unlike drugs, they don't need precursor chemicals, they don't have to grow. it they make an immediate profit, even when they get to the river. they don't even have to get across the river to get a profit. then they further compound it by when they move them across the river, often they'll load them down in stash houses and
continue to extort them for additional money. it's an ongoing process. clearly the cartels get a vote in terms on that push and pull factor going into the united states. mr. lynch: mr. judd, anything to add? mr. judd: absolutely. it comes down to risk-reward. there's very little risk when you're smuggling migrants. the laws in the united states, the accountability that we hold these human traffics, with we arrest them, it's a very low standard. however, if we arrest a drug smuggler smuggling cocaine, methamphetamine or something like that, the consequences are much greater. mr. lynch: i spent a lot of time in the middle east and so do a lot of members on this committee. when angela merkel back last august said, you know, germany welcomes the syrian refugees and we'll take them, she ended up ith 1.3 million. she never expected it. now they're backing away from that. but that was a pull factor. that was a pull factor. it pulled -- when you talk to the syrians on the border, they all want to go to germany. because they were beckoned to do so.
and i'm just wondering if we have a similar situation here, because we didn't see this surge, when there was civil war in el salvador, when there was civil war in nicaragua, we did not see the huge -- and those people could have legitimately said, i got a civil war back home and i need to come to the united states. we didn't see the requests at the border that we're seeing now. there's something else going on here. maybe we're part of it up here, creating this problem. i yield back. you've been very courteous. i appreciate it, mr. chairman. mr. desantis: the gentleman from north carolina, mr. meadows, five minutes. mr. meadows: thank you, mr. chairman. let me follow up a little bit on what mr. lynch just talked about. because as we start to look at this particular issue, there is a big difference between refugees and asylum seekers. and somehow we've put those two together, assuming that they're
one and the same. and indeed they're not one and the same. we have different processes for those. i serve on the global health and human rights foreign affairs committee. there is nothing that is more close to my heart in terms of trying those who are truly in need. but what mr. lynch was talking about, really comes to mind, what are the places that are most troubled from a standpoint of people needing asylum or refugee status, what countries come to mind as being the most orrific right now? ms. acer, what country would you put the top two? ms. acer: i guess you could look at in terms of numbers. then of course you've got syria. mr. meadows: so syria would be number one. ms. acer: i'm not going to rate them. mr. meadows: is in the top five? ms. acer: yes. mr. meadows: and the reason i come there, because what mr. lynch was talking about, is if indeed the worst place in the
world is syria, what we would see is coming across our southern border, this mass infiltration from syria. but really when we start to look at the numbers, it's not bearing that out. so, mr. ting, i need to understand the process. because ms. acer had talked about the fact that these asylum seekers come and they sit in jail. now, we've been led to believe that since 2009, there was a different administration rule that would not actually put them in jail, mr. judd would apprehend them, they would go through and seek credible fear and then they would be released and not sit in jail waiting for that, is that correct? mr. ting: there are two distinct programs. you referred to refugees, we operate an overseas refugee program. we have i think the most generous overseas refugee program in the world. taking well over 55,000 --
mr. meadows: state department's involved with that. mr. ting: but that's a pick and choose program. we get to pick which refugees are special interests to the united states and bring them here. the asylum program allows people who are already here to apply or asylum. and there's no numerical limit on asylum. so if you can claim that you're a refugee and you're already here, under our law and international law, we cannot return you to your home country. you qualify for discretionary asylum status in the united states, which can put you on a path to a green card and eventually becoming a u.s. citizen. along with everybody else. no numerical limit. so it's very tempting, i think, given the fact that you may be a refugee and a displaced person camp in jordan or turkey, and if the u.s. doesn't pick you, you know, you're kind of stuck there. but if you can get yourself into the united states, or at the border, and make the claim, then you're going to get processed.
sooner or later. and i think that is a great temptation, as mr. lynch says, that is a pull factor. to the extent that people have a realistic expectation. and i think the administration frankly is trying to balance expectations and is deliberately, i think, trying to deter people by imposing some consequences on their coming to the united states and making claims. mr. meadows: so i can tell by the nonverbal gestures to your right from my standpoint that she does not agree. so go ahead. i'll give you a very short -- i have very limited time. ms. acer: thank you. we're certainly protected from a large syrian influx at our border by our geographical location. but the northern triangle countries are incredibly dangerous. as i mentioned before, asylum requests are up significantly in the region as well. i would just say in our day in and day out, we represent asylum seekers who pass through the credible fear process and are held in very jail-like facilities. which the u.s. commission on international religious freedom
has said are inappropriate. mr. meadows: you put them in jail, if they have credible fear claims, your border patrol put them in jail? mr. judd: it strictly depends upon where it's at. if an r.e.g., probably not. if it's the tucson sector, probably not we don't have the bed space. if it's in the del rio sector, i will tell you i drove by where we put them, and it is anything but a jail. there's no fences, there's nothing around it. in fact, it's been described to me more like a country club. mr. meadows: so we've either let them go or we put them, what you would classify as a country club setting is what you're aying. mr. judd: from what i saw, yes. mr. meadows: part of the testimony here is that we deny a whole lot. let me ask you this. it appears in 2013 that we approved 92% of the people coming across our border in terms of f.y. -- this is f.y. 2013. 92% of the people who came
across and said there's a credible fear got approved. and last i guess in the first quarter of this year, it's ctually 86%. if we are looking to approve that many -- it's almost everybody comes across and says i have a credible fear, i want asylum, are those the reasons the numbers continue to go higher, mr. judd? mr. judd: what i can tell you is what we see on the border. unfortunately, i don't go through the entire process. i arrest people. mr. meadows: do they get a long interview? mr. judd: no. mr. meadows: so what's the interview like? mr. judd: border patrol agents, when we arrest them, if they are from countries other than mexico, it's quick. they have to claim they have credible fear. mr. meadows: if i'm speaking farsi, i can come across and say i have a credible fear and i don't get a real interview? mr. judd: no, you don't. mr. meadows: so the very people
that may be terrorists -- and i don't want to categorize one particular group speaking a particular language, but those that are higher threat areas to us based on their past history, they get a shorter interview? mr. judd: for special interest countries, we notify the f.b.i. immediately if they're from a special interest country. we won't even interview those individuals. for instance, when we arrested the afghanis and pakistanis, the most recent i am aware of, they were immediately turned over to the f.b.i. we didn't even interview them. from countries that are not considered special interest, from, say, china, bangladesh would be the same, it's the same interview. if they have a credible fear, the interview ends at that point for the border patrol. mr. meadows: thank you. i yield back. i appreciate the patience of the chair. mr. desantis: the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from illinois for five minutes. ms. kelly: in today's complex threat environment, effective
counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts rely on sophisticated intelligence gathering and sharing capabilities, especially of their effects, we should strengthen our efforts on the border on these intelligence capabilities. mr. vitiello, your written testimony states, and i quote, a whole of government approach that leverages interagency and international partnerships as a force multiplier has been and will continue to be the most effective way to keep our borders secure. which other agencies does customs and border patrol share intelligence or information to secure the border? mr. vitiello: to all the entities, state, local, tribal, who are at the border, their customs group. with their federal police and immigration authorities, and we
also, c.b.p. has the benefit of having a worldwide footprint so in all the places where we're active, either providing services for people coming into the country or a liaison relationship in places like mexico and canada to exchange important law enforcement information. so anybody that has the common interest of securing the border, gathering intelligence to aid in counterterrorism efforts, etc., those are all the people we interact with. ms. kelly: can you further explain how these they act as a force multiplier? mr. vitiello: with mexico's immigration authorities, when the surge of unaccompanied minors started in 2014, several requests from -- through the official liaison for mexico to do more at their southern border. and the i.m.n. group, their immigration authority stepped up and shut down the common routes of people coming to the united tates seeking out to prosecute
smugglers who were responsible to that activity. that led to an overall reduction into people using those routes. we were able to challenge that route. we were able to support their work with lee asoutherns and mentors in mexico to understand the chacks they have and give them, where we could, tips and advice and mentorship so they ould do their work better. ms. kelly: that's a good example of how they can strengthen the border. any other examples? mr. vitiello: also a very important relationship in canada as well. we share information about threats that we perceive coming from the u.s. into canada and vice versa. lots of information exchange. then, it is the responsibility of our leadership in the field to maintain good relationships with all of law enforcement community so we can identify and understand which of the threats are most important by community and then work together to abate them.
ms. kelly: it seems it's the -- when you hear about threats at the border, it's always the southern border, not as much the northern border. what are the percentages, or is that how you'd describe it? mr. vitiello: our resources are dedicated to the southern border. that's where the activity is represented by the large numbers, volumes of people, volumes of things because of the nature of the real estate and the differences in both conomies, etc. but we also have important work that we do with canada and we similar things as it relates to identifying where we need to be situationally where on the border, technology to help us patrol and monitor and then obviously the relationships are key in understanding the threats that are faced. ms. kelly: ok. your testimony continues, quote, d.h.s. works with our federal, state, local, tribal, international partners, particularly canada and mexico, to address transnational threats. what types of help or
information does canada and mexico provide that the u.s. would not otherwise have access o? mr. vitiello: so they -- at c.b.p. and it's true with other federal law enforcement is we help identify the criminal networks that are responsible for human trafficking, gun smuggling, illicit financing. what we do is we try to understand amongst ourselves with them and ourselves what the threats are and how to combat them and then help identify by network which are the most problematic criminal enterprises? -- enterprises. ms. kelly: do you feel these partnerships have improved over time and you're getting more and more information or there's more of a comfort level with these other agencies? mr. vitiello: so it ebbs and flows as it relates to the international engagement. i think in canada it's been stable and very well used for quite some time. in mexico it sorts of ebbs and flows with changes of administration, etc.
they have been a strong partner with us, especially at the federal police level and their immigration authorities. ms. kelly: thank you so much. thank you, mr. chair. mr. desantis: the chair now recognizes the gentleman from florida, mr. mica, for five minutes. mr. mica: thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this joint hearing. i think it couldn't be better time with the incidents we've seen most recently around the world relating to terrorism and ur border vulnerability. i guess you can probably conclude our borders are porous, a sieve, and tens of thousands of i legals are coming across the border. would that be appropriate, mr. judd? do you think that's correct? mr. judd: border patrol agents, these are very motivated individuals. they do the best they possibly can.
mr. mica: can you describe the vehicle, cut the wires and came through, you don't know whether they were drugs, weapons, explosives, carried great quantity its across the border? mr. judd: it could be. mr. mica: let me ask the d.h.s. epresentative. i just heard that el chapo, the oted drug kingpin and czar crossed the border and he bragged about it i guess after his capture, like he was coming on some regular vacation, journey to the united states. are you aware of that? >> no, i had not heard that. mr. mica: not only were we informed he was crossing routinely, now have -- we have evidence that some of the weapons -- at least one of the weapons that was found when he
was captured was from the fast and furious collection which is provided by u.s. government, you are not aware of that ither? mr. vitiello: i did see that in media reports. r. mica: ok. mr. judd, you gave some excellent testimony. you describe one of the issues and you said the border patrol due to d.h.s. prosecutorial discretion guidelines released more than 3,800 illegal aliens who were in our -- subject to deportation proceedings and were released because they claimed to have been in the united states continuously since january, 2014. this amnesty through policy in short, the administration -- this is the president's policy of amnesty, is that what rules proceedings?
mr. judd: if you ask border patrol agents, absolutely. mr. mica: so we've allowed tens of thousands -- i saw an estimate of about 50,000 criminal illegals in the united states, a guesstimate. is that -- they're subject to deportation, aren't they? mr. judd: yes. anybody that's here illegally is subject to deportation. mr. mica: but, again, we've allowed millions to sort of waver and tied your hands which you put in your written testimony. not only the borders but the airports, people flying in, whether it's from europe, central, south america, around the world and there's a credential screening gateway system which is outlined in an i.g. report june 4, 2015.
it says worker credentials. and these are workers that the airport that in fact we don't have thousands of passport numbers. these are people with, for example, no alien registration number for immigrants working at our airports. 14,000. no passport number for mmigrants, 75,000. first names with two characters or less, 1,500. hat is this, 80,000 working -- 87,000 active and we don't have those records. are you aware of that, mr. itiello? mr. vitiello: this is a d.h.s. inspector general report. it's not particularly my area but i'm aware of the reporting on that subject.
mr. mica: we have people working at our airport who is are aliens, who we don't know anything about. we don't have their alien number or passport number, is that correct? mr. chairman, i'd like this page be made part of the record? mr. desantis: without objection. mr. mica: in my local community, the police chiefs -- we have a big drug epidemic around the in florida and around the world. they were talking about illegal aliens. they arrest them. they detain them, they call the border patrol and they advise them they can't help and they are often just escorted to the county line. are you aware that's going on in our local communities, our local jurisdictions and borders? >> i was not, congressman. what area was this? mr. mica: central florida.
>> we are not well staffed in central florida. mr. mica: they are dumping them back in the community and you all are refusing to do nything. maybe some of it is what mr. udd described. we've let them through presidential edict stay here and not be accountable. thank you, i yield back. mr. desantis: the gentleman's time has expired. the chair now recognizes the gentleman from virginia for five minutes. mr. connolly: i thank the chair and i ask unanimous consent that my record be made part of the record. mr. desantis: without objection, so ordered. mr. connolly: mr. vitiello, in isten to this last line of questioning, gosh, i seem to -- i seem to think some progress has been made but maybe i'm wrong. how many border patrol agents are there now on the southern border? mr. vitiello: approximately 17,000. mr. connolly: how about eight
years ago? mr. vitiello: about half of that. mr. connolly: so we doubled them. in the immigration reform bill that had been worked out in the bipartisan basis and the senate would have doubled that again, is that correct? mr. vitiello: i believe so. r. connolly: yeah. so we double the border patrol agents. deportations that fall into record lows in that eight-year time heered? mr. vitiello: i think our activity overall over the last several years has seen a reduction with the buildup of resources that we've had? mr. connolly: is it not true that in this last eight-year period we had record eportations? mr. vitiello: i've seen various reports at the numbers and i think there was a time those numbers were higher and now dropped off commensurate with the reductions. mr. connolly: because we have a ore effective deterrent.
ms. acer, deportations, were they higher than in the previous eight years? ms. acer: i believe they hit around 400,000 which was an all-time high. mr. connolly: all-time high in this administration? ms. acer: yes, that's my understanding. mr. connolly: not hiding by executive order and so forth, it ounds good but there's another record to be told. going back, mr. vitiello, to your point about secure borders, so you mean to say it's harder to get into the united states, the borders are less porous because the measures were put in place including personnel are in fact more effective, is that correct? mr. vitiello: we were certainly more capable than we were as far as the number of agents, the level of technology, the infrastructure that's been in place and the improvements that have been made. mr. connolly: and all of that combined has allowed us to catch people if they tried to cross he border?
mr. vitiello: well, we've certainly gotten much more capability. mr. connolly: so we're deterring lots of people at the border? mr. vitiello: it's hard to measure deterrence. if you look back at the historic highs in the number of arrests we were making, we've seen a reduction in that. the panel has already talked about the insufficient measure of apprehensions alone. we have seen reductions in activity that are commensurate with the improvements we walked away and not sort of the physical structures, more agents, etc., but in other things we're doing, postarrest interviews, consequence delivery etc. mr. connolly: mr. mica used the point -- he used el chapo, but we hear people that had been deported including bad actors, gang activists, gang leaders, especially from el salvador and honduras who multiple times deported and multiple times e-enter the united states,
deportation is not for them sort of some penultimate punishment or deterrence for that atter. can you comment on that? what are we doing to try to make sure repeat entrances are permanently bar and deterred and are effective at it? mr. vitiello: we do track the number of arrests people have, both for the criminal and their previous immigration history and things like the consequence delivery system we target people who we know will be repeat ffenders or recross multiple times and then seek with the assistance of the u.s. department of justice, u.s. attorney's office locally to prosecute those folks when we find them. mr. connolly: do you have a special division or a special
targeting task force or system with respect to gang activities? because certainly in a lot of our communities we're worried about people, bad actors who are icious gang members often from central america and we don't want them in our communities and we don't want them in this country and we want them back home although that causes problems, too, we understand. but are you targeting that particular subgroup? in this context? mr. vitiello: so in the context of the consequence delivery system, anybody that's a repeat offender, we seek to use the maximum fect of federal prosecutions when they're re-encounters by our officers in the united states. in all the cities and towns that are represented, we work with our state, local, federal partners in the task force environment and some of those are specifically dedicated to gang activity. mr. connolly: mr. chairman, i guess if i can slightly
follow-up. that's good. can we target them and profile them as a likely repeat offender and -- re-enter and that's what we want to deter? mr. vitiello: yes. so what we do is we aggregate the data to understand when that person is in front of us and the agent is doing the booking rocedure when they run the fingerprints, they'll have a complete record of their previous criminal and immigration history and those that tip the scale, if you will, toward gang activity or known criminal offenses inside of that kind of criminal activity, then we'll work with local -- local u.s. attorney's office to get them rosecuted. mr. connolly: thank you. my time's up. mr. desantis: the gentleman's time has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from georgia for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. r. judd, let me kind of go a little different direction here for a moment. you've noted in the past some of the challenges of securing the border on federal lands. mr. hice: specifically, what sort of obstacles do agents face when access is limited?
say, to endangered species or wilderness designations? mr. judd: well, i could follow -- i started my career in california and when an illegal alien crossed the border i could follow that illegal alien in my vehicle until i caught him, forever. it didn't matter how long. i could go forever until i followed him. but if you go and look at arizona, if an illegal alien crosses the border, i have to get out of my vehicle, i have to call somebody and they have to get in front of me and there are few access roads and that puts us behind the curve and it's difficult to apprehend those individuals on protected lands. mr. hice: mr. vitiello, a similar type of follow-up with you regarding federal lands, you're aware of the permitting delays on federal lands, whether it's for road maintenance or forward operating bases, mobile
surveillance system, what have you, what is an acceptable period of time for permitting to take place for your agency before you've lost your tactical advantage? mr. vitiello: so in the concept of when agents are in what we call hot pursuit, when they're actively following a trail, even in a wilderness area, they have the ability to continue on that traffic. as it relates to infrastructure and other improvements that are made in certain protected lands, we have a three agency memorandum of agency with the department of agriculture and the department of the interior to work through things like permitting, environmental assessments for improvements that we want to make to install surveillance equipment or to access roads, etc. mr. hice: but at some point your
intel becomes irrelevant if permitting takes so long -- what kind of time frame is reasonable? mr. vitiello: as soon as we can do it, as soon as possible is the best time frame. mr. hice: are you receiving cooperation? mr. vitiello: the admiral provides a mechanism to start the conversation and then work through the expectations and milestones to get things accomplished that we need to have done. mr. hice: ok. of course we all know that isis is attempting to exploit any and all of our loopholes on our nation's national security and in particular our borders from infiltrating refugee program and so forth, but when it comes to our borders, how high are the security risks and how can we mitigate those? i'll begin, mr. judd work you, real quickly. mr. judd: they're extremely high. the best way we can mitigate these risks are resources in the field, giving us the resources that are necessary so that we're not leaving areas of the border just completely unmanned.
mr. hice: ok. mr. ting. mr. ting: i think it's very much related to the volume of border crossers that have to be processed. i mean, we're all aware there was a tremendous border surge in f.y. 2014, and preliminary statistics show that the border surge in the current fiscal year 2016 may exceed that number. i think when you have a historic border surge that obviously stresses whatever resources are available at the border. and makes it more likely that security risks can take advantage of that situation and penetrate our border, simply riding the tide of the high volume of processing that has to occur and looking at f.y. 2016, i think a lot of us think we're confronting that situation this year.
mr. hice: ok. let me ask you, mr. mccraw, how high are the security risks and how can we mitigate it? mr. mccraw: they're substantial. until you secure it, you can't mitigate it fully. know congressman connelly was concerned about ms-13 and criminal aliens that come across and how do you keep them from coming back? the only way to do it is secure it. the way you do it is provide agents, technology, aviation assets and you -- unity of effort and work the type of programs that will deter criminal activity. that's the only way you can actually mitigate the risks. ms. acer: could i -- mr. chairman, could i just weigh in? mr. desantis: the gentleman's time has expired. we'll have votes here. let me recognize the gentleman from michigan for five minutes. mr. walberg: thank you, mr. chairman, and thanks to the anel for being here.
mr. judd, a constituent of mine who's a d.h.s. officer contacted me. he's been working on the border. in california. he expressed concerns about a policy, a -- with california and mexico where individuals who crossed the border illegally cannot be sent home but are processed through and then released into the u.s. with court dates as long as seven to 10 years down the road. are you aware of that olicy? mr. judd: we dub it the catch and release policy. it's disconcerting to all border patrol agents. if you ask border patrol agents, they believe it's one of the driving factors that invites individuals to try to break our -- mr. walberg: is it unique to california? mr. judd: it is not. mr. walberg: are all aliens that cross the border given notices
to appear before the court? mr. judd: no, they are not. let me take that back. i'm sorry. not all illegal aliens that we arrest are given notices to appear. and there are different factors that go into that. i would -- i would generally say that if we see somebody cross the border that that individual would be given a notice to appear. but not all illegal aliens that we arrest are given notices to appear. mr. walberg: what's the typical time frame for court hearings? mr. judd: i don't deal with the court hearings. from what i'm hearing from high level d.h.s. officials, i'm hearing anywhere between five to seven years. mr. walberg: mr. vitiello. did i get that right? mr. vitiello: yes, correct. i heard the same thing. it varies by city and the capacity that the department of justice has to schedule and notice those hearings.
ms. acer: i'm sorry to be -- can i weigh in on the immigration courts because we've been recommended -- we just issued a report on the need to adequately fund the immigration courts to bring down those backlogs and delays. mr. walberg: so your contention is funding? ms. acer: yeah. that's a major need is funding for the immigration courts. thank you. mr. walberg: let me ask mr. judd. are there any efforts to keep track of the whereabouts of the individuals that are waiting these lengthy time frame court hearings? mr. judd: not that i'm aware of. all they need to do is provide us an address and it can be an obscure address. for instance, in the mid 2000's we were arresting a large number of brazilians in the tucson sector and a large number of these brazilians were giving us the exact same address, over and over. mr. walberg: large buildings. mr. judd: yes. we were releasing those individuals based upon the address they were giving us. mr. walberg: i assume it's frustrating to your colleagues.
mr. judd: yes. what gets even more frustrating is we have a c.b.p. commissioner who tells fuss we don't like it, we can go find another job. hat's even more frustrating. mr. walberg: mr. mccraw, how are the administration's efforts or enforcement priorities and release policies affecting your organization? mr. mccraw: clearly we're concerned. the governor expressed his concern about the potential syrian refugees coming to texas. there's no adequate way to properly vet them and that's a concern from a national security standpoint. and he's made it clear. we're concerned to see transnational gangs, criminal aliens, cartel, cartel operatives and drugs, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine infiltrate texas and really throughout the nation. and those are those -- those are the key concerns we have and some of the other related transnational crime that happens when you become a transshipping
center for cartel, drug and human smuggling including home invasions, including high speed pursuits, including stash house extortions, including kidnappings. all those things we address in texas. at the end of the day the border is not secure. mr. walberg: i assume you have ideas to secure that and policies that can be implemented rather rapidly. if you were allowed as a state official responsible for securing your people's safety and borders, could do you t? mr. mccraw: i could tell you the chief right next to me could do it if given proper resources. if border patrol is given sufficient border patrol agents, detection technologies, they could do it today. no doubt in my mind. mr. walberg: this isn't a problem but for the fact you're not allowed to do what you're able to do and i would assume, mr. vitiello, as well? mr. mccraw: the problem is it hasn't been properly resourced over the decades. bottom line is border security hasn't been a priority, not been
a concern as it relates to multiple administrations. in today's threat environment, you can't afford not to be concerned about border security. it impacts texas, public safety impact. t impacts us from a national security standpoint, homeland security standpoint and not just texas but the rest of the nation. mr. desantis: the gentleman's time has expired. we'll try to go to ken buck for five minutes. mr. buck: mr. judd, real quickly. 2014, as a result of the change in the president's policy on immigration in 2014, we saw a surge of minors crossing the order, is that true? mr. judd: that's correct. mr. buck: do you know the percentage of those minors, from contiguous countries? mr. judd: very few. the vast majority of those are from noncontiguous countries. mr. buck: how are they treated differently, if a juvenile from mexico enters the country versus a juvenile from el salvador? mr. judd: if it's a juvenile from mexico, they are going to
be treated basically the exact ame. it doesn't matter what country you're from. if you -- if you claim a credible fear, if you say that you're seeking asylum, you're going to be treated the same by the border patrol. how i.c.e. treats them i don't know but by the border patrol the same. mr. buck: mr. vitiello, any different treatment or process that is used for contiguous versus noncontiguous individuals? mr. vitiello: in the case of mexico and others from central america, they're both populations would be screened to make sure they weren't victims of human trafficking. in most cases along the border with next could he, we can facilitate their return into mexico with the assistance of their government. and so the logistics and the turning people over to i.c.e. or to be placed with h.h.s. doesn't necessarily always occur with folks from mexico because we have a friendly neighbor and they'll -- they will facilitate bringing their citizens back. repatriating them.
mr. buck: so in the case -- there is a legal distinction, though, between how individuals are treated in contiguous countries versus noncontiguous countries? mr. vitiello: all the population are screened so they are not victims of human trafficking, these juveniles. if they're from noncontiguous countries, the law allows for us to do the screening, to do the booking procedure. once we recognized they're unaccompanied children, then it's our -- it's the work of d.h.s. to transfer them to another government department, the department of health and human services, which puts them in a setting to where they can either be reunited with family in the states or cared for appropriately given their age. mr. buck: and that's individuals in noncontiguous countries? mr. vitiello: correct. mr. buck: but many of those noncontiguous countries use the term friendly in terms of our relationship with mexico. many of those noncontiguous countries we have a friendly elationship with also? mr. vitiello: we do.
mr. buck: if the law changed, we could arrange in a situation where they are not victims of human smuggling or seeking asylum, we could arrange for those individuals to be returned without going through the five to seven-year hearing process hat we now have? mr. vitiello: that would require a change in the law as far as i know. mr. buck: do you see any adverse effects in changing that law? mr. vitiello: i'm not sure. i guess we'd have to look at exactly what the contours of that but certainly in our relationship with mexico it's a smaller problem. mr. buck: and ms. acer indicated all we need is more money. if we just printed more money, increased our national debt above the $19 trillion, we could take care of this problem. much simpler solution, much less costly and frankly much more humane to the individuals that are coming into this country would be to change that law and
allow those individuals to return to their homes and set up policy in this country, frankly, that doesn't attract juveniles like magnets and i think it would be more humane rather than putting somebody in limbo for five years whether they don't know whether they're in this country or not. i thank the chairman and i yield ack. mr. desantis: the gentleman yields back. the chair recognizes the gentleman from wisconsin for ive minutes. mr. grothman: i wanted to in general -- this is a question maybe for mr. judd and mr. ting. how effect i do you believe the administration's commitment to order security has been. i want you to compare it, i'm not a partisan person and i'm
under the impression we didn't do well in the previous administration either. let me change the question. how sincere has the commitment been, both in this administration and the last administration to border security, which to me is just a basic part of being a country? mr. ting: i was going to yield to mr. judd. how serious are they about border security? i think there's a lack of concern for deterrence. i mean, i think deterrence is an important part of immigration olicy. we will never have enough resources. we will never have enough border patrol agents on the line if we don't deter people from attempting to violate our aws. and so i think deterrence is part of immigration policy which has been abandoned by this administration and not been a high priority of previous administrations. one of my colleagues said the poor people of the world may be poor but they're not stupid. they're as good of doing a cost-benefit analysis as anybody n this room.
they can figure it out and they're going to figure it out. if we don't deter people, they're going to figure out, hey, you have a better life in the united states. your kids go to school for free. there's better security. there are better job opportunities. you can compete with americans for jobs in the united states. so that's fix the cost-benefit analysis. we can overwhelm whatever resources we're willing to put on the border by sending messages that we're, you know, willing, like angela merkel, willing to accept unlimited numbers of people to come and live with us in the united states. we can do that and it's not going to matter how much money we spend on the border and how many border patrol agents we put up. mr. grothman: i don't mean to put words in your mouth but it seems to me that at least under the last two administrations, maybe the past three
administrations, while the average american knows we have a border patrol and thinks we have a border patrol because we want to have our immigration laws obeyed, there's not been a commitment for many years in this country by powerful people who presumably ran and said they wanted to enforce immigration laws for whatever reason past administrations of both parties don't really seem to care so much for enforcing our immigration laws. i don't know what is going on in their head but you can guess it's an accurate statement? mr. ting: this is the first presidential campaign that immigration has been an issue. both political parties didn't want to raise immigration because it is such an emotional and divisive issue. and really for the first time this year suddenly immigration has popped up as an issue. now maybe it is the unusual situations we've seen at the border. certainly it's the national security concerns that we're all feeling, but i think the
american people are focused on immigration and are asking, you know, why are we having such overwhelming problems at our borders and wanting something to be done about it? but i think deterrence is part of it. the administration has to send a message that we're serious about enforcing our laws and that we're going to do the best we can to enforce them efficiently. and people are not entitled to be here ought to expect to be turned around at the border promptly, getting a prompt asylum interview on the spot, not a credible fear interview, but an asylum interview. if they're denied asylum they should be turned around immediately. mr. grothman: mr. judd. mr. judd: what you have to have, mr. grothman, agency officials that are going to tell you the truth. not the truth. they have to be open. they have to tell you everything. i will tell you right now that you have a chief patrol agent
right now that's been very open and has given you all candor and i fear because of that openness, because of that candor, our current acting chief patrol agent is not even going to be considered for the permanent chief patrol agent because quote-unquote he can't be controlled. mr. grothman: thank you. i just wanted before my final 10 seconds want to correct mr. ting. i think there are a lot of repuicans who want to enforce the border and i think a lot of us are very concerned about what happened under president bush and don't want another person anybody like bush representing our party in the future. thank you. mr. desantis: the gentleman's time has expired. i want to thank the witnesses. i think that this hearing was important in flushing out really ome problematic aspects -- aspects of our national policy here. we do not have a secure border. we are inviting threats to our country. it goes from having more resources, more physical
security, but as prfsor ting said, you've got to have laws that are actually enforced and people need to see that. that will deter a lot of people coming as well. i will note we are going to continue in this vein on this committee and in particular there was a recent report that i.c.e. had in custody 124 different detainees who were here illegally, that pthalater released and that after i.c.e. released them they got charged with murder. so that is the type of thing that had i.c.e. done its job properly, maybe those people would not have been killed in our country. i think that's a tragedy that that's happened. with that, i thank our witnesses again. if there are no further business, without objection, the subcommittee stands adjourned. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016]
>> vice president joe biden says president barack obama did his duty during a time in a divided government and nominated a moderate to the supreme court. and he says now it's time for the senate to do its part and consider the nomination. here's a portion of what you'll see tonight. vice president biden: there is no biden rule, it doesn't exist. there's only one rule followed on the judiciary committee. that was the constitution's clear rule of advice and consent. article 2 of the constitution clearly states whenever there is a vacancy in one of the courts created by the constitution itself, the supreme court of the united states, the president the president shall appoint someone to fill
the vacancy with the advice and consent of the united states senate. and advice and consent includes consulting and voting. nobody is suggesting individual senators have to vote yes on any particular presidential nominee. voting no is always an option and it is their option. but saying nothing, seeing nothing, reading nothing, hearing nothing, and deciding in advance simply to turn your back before the president even names nominee is not an option the onstitution leaves open. it's a plain abdication of the senate's solemn constitutional duty. it's an abdication, quite frankly, that has never occurred
before in our history. now, unable to square their unprecedented conduct with the constitution, my friend mitch mcconnell and the chairman of the committee, and he is my friend, the senator from iowa, senator grassley, they're now trying another tack. they ask what's the difference? what difference does it make? if the court has eight or nine members. i'm serious. remember they said they weren't going to fill any vacancies on the circuit court of appeals for the district for four years. remember that's what they said? that's not a constitution created court, the supreme court is. >> the vice president spoke today to students at georgetown law school. you can see his comments on the u.s. supreme court vacancy tonight at 8:00 eastern here on
c-span. and tomorrow night at 8:00 we'll play the supreme court oral argument this week in the case challenging the health care law's contraception coverage mandate. an order of nuns is challenging he law on religious grounds. >> if for yore's student cam contest, student pross deuced documentaries telling thus issue they wanted the candidates to discuss in the 2016 presidential campaign. they told us the economy, equality, education and immigration were all top issues. thanks to all of the students and teachers who competed this year and congratulations to all our winners. every weekday in april, starting on the first, one of they have top 21 winning entries will air at 6:50 a.m. eastern. all enter i -- entries are available for viewing online at studentcam.org. >> special envoys for the closure of guantanamo bay detention facility testified
before the house foreign affairs committee this week. chairman royce and republican committee members questioned them about the security risks of transferring detainees to u.s. soil and other countries. this is about an hour and a half. mr. royce: this committee will come to order. president obama's race to empty the guantanamo bay detention facility is on. in recent weeks and months, many hardened terrorists have been released.
many of them have been sent abroad and according to the president's closure plan sent to congress last month, another 35 are set to be transferred this summer. unfortunately, we know many of the recipient countries don't have the desire or commitment or even ability to monitor these dangerous individuals and prevent them from returning to the battlefield. countries like ghana and uruguay aren't typical security and intelligence partners but they are being asked to shoulder a heavy burden and a heavy responsibility. and there are real concerns about the administration setting aside intelligence assessments to deceive countries about the threat posed by the militants they are being asked to take in. that was certainly a finding of this committee, our investigation into the release of six detainees to uruguay in december of 2014, and i want to thank mr. jeff duncan of south carolina, the chairman of our
subcommittee that focuses on the estern hemisphere. the top state department official overseeing guantanamo at the time wrote to the president of uruguay that there was no information about these six that -- that no information that they were involved in conducting or facilitating terrorist activities against the united states or its partners or allies. no information? they were known to have been hardened al qaeda fighters involved in forging documents, trained as suicide bombers, fighting at tora bora, committing mayhem, committing murders in afghanistan. and although the law clearly states that steps must be taken to substantially mitigate the risk of released individuals
from, again, threatening the united states, senior uruguayan officials asserted before these six arrived they will not impose or accept any conditions to receive these former detainees. indeed, these six terrorists were housed just blocks from the u.s. embassy without the prior knowledge of u.s. officials and frankly were often seen outside of the embassy. the administration often talks of detainees cleared for release as if they are no longer a hreat. but just over 30% of the detainees that have been released are either confirmed or suspected to have returned to the battlefield. several of the senior leaders of al qaeda in the arabian peninsula are alums of guantanamo. the administration is emptying guantanamo with the flimsy claim that it is a terrorist recruiting tool.
let me explain that i don't think that if you're standing in line in raqqah to recruit into isis you say, oh, guantanamo bay is going to be closed. no need -- no need to enlist here. what raqqah is about, what isis is about is the establishment of the caliphate. that's what's driving recruitment and frankly the success of isis on the battlefield is driving recruitment. closing this detention facility has been opposed by bipartisan majorities in congress and even members of the president's own cabinet. it is no secret that former secretary of defense hagel was pushed out in part because he was not certifying releases fast enough for the white house. yet, president obama remains determined to push out as many terrorists as he can to other countries. 5 or so other law of war
detainees would be moved to u.s. soil. doing so could open a pandora's box of legal issues, impairing to bring guantanamoefforts. bay detainees to u.s. soil would be, according to the secretary of defense, against the law and that's also according to the attorney general. i see no interest in changing that law. certainly not by the american people, and our laws must be honored. the white house, meanwhile, has no solid plans to detain and interrogate terrorists captured today. that's a problem. indeed, the administration admits that its proposed domestic guantanamo would not take in any new terrorists captured on the battlefield. if the administration was spending as much time working to capture and detain isis
fighters, as it was trying to close down this facility at guantanamo bay, we would be more secure. isis is continuing to threaten and expand in libya and in afghanistan and elsewhere across the globe. europe is under siege by jihadists. we are under attack, so unfortunately we are going to need a detention facility for fanatical terrorists who's processing in the legal system is unwarranted and simply is not feasible. and we're going to need that for some time to come. and we'll now go to an introduction of our panel. this morning we are pleased to be joined by special envoy lee wolosky. hes from the u.s. department of
state. previously he also served as the director for transnational threats at the national security council under president clinton. and we also have special envoy paul lewis for guantanamo detention closure at the u.s. department of defense and previously mr. lewis served as both the general counsel and minority general counsel at the house armed services committee. and we welcome them both to the committee. we appreciate that our two witnesses, along with the intelligence community, have already agreed to meet with the committee in april in closed session on necessary classified issues. and without objection, the witnesses' full prepared statements will be made part of the record and members here will have five calendar days to ubmit any questions or any statements or extraneous material for the record. and at this time i would like to
go to mr. eliot engel of new york who is the ranking member of this committee for his opening statement here today. mr. engel: thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you for calling this hearing and, gentlemen, mr. wolosky, mr. lewis, welcome to the foreign affairs committee and thank you for your service. we're reminded today of the terrible cost of violent extremism. i was just on the floor of the house speaking on a resolution declaring our solidarity with the people of belgium. so that's why i just got here. came here right from the floor. the dark shadow of a terrorist attack has fallen over another of europe's great cities and we're standing alongside the belgium people today as they mourn the dead, heal the wounded, rebuild what's been broken and seek justice. in these situations, it's important to look at what more we can be doing to enhance
cooperation with our partners and prevent this type of violence. it's also important to reflect on where our policies have gone astray and maybe -- made the situation worse. so it's appropriate today we're taking a hard look at one of the most troubling and divisive symbols of our counterterrorism effort, the guantanamo bay detention facility. the subtitle of today's hearing is what are the foreign policy and national security cost of closing the guantanamo facility, but as policymakers, legislators and experts have been saying almost since the facility was opened, the question is, what are the costs of keeping it open? the prison's drain on military resources. it costs nearly $5 million a year to keep the person detained at guantanamo versus $78,000 a year in our prison. closing gitmo and transferring detainees would free up $85 million a year. resources we could put to better use elsewhere combating terrorism.
the argument against this goes, we need to spend whatever it costs. these guys are too dangerous to bring here. let's look at that. today 91 detainees remain at gitmo. since the prison opened, 644 individuals have been transferred out. 144 under president obama. 500 under president bush. as of today, more than a third of the current detainees have been cleared for release after a thorough review process. under no circumstances will these people be released onto american soil. like all others, they will be transferred to other countries. prior to 2009, more than one in five released detainees returned to the battlefield. under the obama administration, nearly eliminated this problem. if the president plans to close the guantanamo detention -- if the president's plan to close the guantanamo detention facility goes forward, only a handful of detainees would ever be brought to the united states and those who are would be held in supermax prisons.
they're called supermax prisons for a reason. no one has ever escaped from one. and who are some of the current residents of these incredibly secure facilities? terrorists. zacarias moussaoui, who helped plot 9/11, something i'll never forget. richard reid, the so-called shoe omber. the boston their money bomber. four men behind the 1993 world trade center bombing. six terrorists responsible for bombing our embassies in kenya and tanzania. all these men will call a.d.x. florence in colorado home for he rest of their days. we should try them in federal court and get justice for their victims. if there's any doubt that our justice system can handle the terrorists, ask any people i just listed. it's not a question of what rights guantanamo detainees should be or should not be accorded. it's the simple fact that the
federal justice system has tried and punished terrorists much more effectively than military commissions. but beyond the dollars and cents, beyond our safety here at home, we need to consider the harm gitmo has inflicted on our security interests around the world and just as importantly on our values. the terrorists seeking to recruit more fighters into their ranks, the guantanamo facility is a gift that keeps on giving. this prison has become so infamous and so reviled that our enemies no longer even need to call it by name. instead, as we've seen again and again, terrorists flip on a camera so the whole world can see, parade out some innocent prisoner dressed in an orange jumpsuit and catch him on fire. everyone knows what they symbolize. this prison has helped strengthen our enemies. it's become a stumbling block on our relationship with coalition partners. after all, it's not just americans that isis is addressing in those orange -- dressing in those orange jumpsuits and it's created deep division here at home and that's
because gitmo has long strained some of our country's most important values. it's become synonymous with torture and indefinite detention. when we were going to school and learned all about rights and constitution, this was never allowed under american law. so i want to quote retired major general michael leonard, the first commander of the detention facility after 9/11. this is a quote from him. he said guantanamo was a mistake. history will reflect that. it was created in the early days of consequence, fear and political expediency. it ignored centuries of international law. it does not make us safer and it shows us who we are as a nation. i ask unanimous consent that major general leonard's full statement be included in the record. mr. royce: without objection. mr. engel: thank you, mr. chairman. so coming back to our question. what are the costs of closing guantanamo?
to me the answers are clear. the cost of closing the facility are far, far less than the cost of keeping it open. i'm not alone in this view. president george w. bush was very clear that he wanted to close gitmo. john mccain made a campaign promise to do the same. an overwhelming majority of national security and military experts, including former secretaries of state and defense, c.i.a. directors, national security advisors and chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff thinks it shut be shuttered. as i pointed out, the arguments against closing it just don't hold up. at the end of the day, my opinion, the only justification for keeping the prison open is fear, fear of violent extremism, fear our justice system or prison system cannot get the job done despite all the evidence of the contrary and fear is precisely what our enemies want to instill on us. i don't want them to win. we shouldn't allow that we should clean up the stain on america's commitment to justice and democracy. we should take away this propaganda tool for terrorists.
we should work to implement the president's plan and shut down this prison. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses. everyone who knows me knows that i take a very hard line on this, but i think that we are far better off closing this facility for our interests, no other interests, our american interests than if we leave it open. so i look forward to hearing our witnesses. thank you, mr. chairman, and i yield back. mr. royce: thank you, mr. engel. lee. mr. wolosky: thank you. distinguished members of the committee, good morning. i appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning to discuss the important matter of closing guantanamo bay, cuba's detention facility. i'm honored to be joined by my colleague, paul lewis, special envoy for guantanamo detention closure at the department of defense. today i'll describe the rigorous processes that determine whether a detainee should be approved for transferred and the extensive interagency efforts
that ensure compliance with applicable statutory requirements before each transfer takes place. at the outset, let me emphasize that president obama concluded that the continued operation of the guantanamo detention facility damages ourational security for many of the same reasons that led president george w. bush to the same conclusion. according to president bush by his second term, and i quote, the detention facility had become a propaganda tool for our enemies and a distraction for our allies, closed quote. it remains though when president obama took office and remains so today. -- so when president obama took office and it remains so today. the bipartisan view that guantanamo should be closed is not limited to presidents bush and obama. senator john mccain has said he is in favor of closing guantanamo. likewise, former secretaries of state clinton, rice, powell,
albright, christopher, baker and kissinger have all advocating closing guantanamo. so two former chairmen of the joint chiefs of staffs and 42 generals and admirals. the list goes on. in addition to leading democrats and republicans, world leaders and international organizations from the pope to the organization for american states consistently call on the united states to close guantanamo. today, there are 91 individuals detained at guantanamo, down from a peek population of 680. a total of 779 detainees have passed through guantanamo and of those 688 have departed. the vast majority of detainees transferred out of guantanamo to other countries, some 532, were transferred before president obama took office on january 20, 2009.
prior to the implementation of rigorous interagency procedures that were implemented by this administration and are described more fully in my written testimony. my written testimony describes at length the two processes by which this administration has approved detainees for transfer. what they have in common is rigorous review and analysis of all available information in the possession of the u.s. government and the unanimous agreement of six agencies and departments before a detainee may be approved for transfer. after a detainee is approved for transfer, the department of state leads negotiations with foreign governments about possible transfer. we're joined in our efforts by colleagues from the department of defense, justice and homeland security as well as by those in the intelligence community and on the joint staff. the decision as to whether, when and where to transfer a detainee
is the culmination of a rigorous interagency process similar to the initial decision to approve a detainee for transfer. this process, including the process by which we negotiate security assurances with our foreign partners, is described at length in my written testimony. i look forward to your questions about it. once we arrive at a satisfactory security framework with a foreign government, the secretary of defense seeks concurrence in the transfer from the secretary -- in a specific transfer from the secretaries of state and homeland security, the attorney general, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. only after he receives the views of those principles and only after he is satisfied that requirements of the national defense authorization act are satisfied that the secretary of defense sign and transmit a certification to the congress conveying his intent to transfer
a guantanamo detainee. the rigorous approval and negotiation process i've described have contributed to the dramatic reduction in the confirmed or engagement for a detainee's transfer during this administration. thank you, again, ladies and gentlemen of the committee. i greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak before you about this important issue, and i look forward to your questions. r. royce: mr. lewis. mr. lewis: chairman royce, ranking member engel, distinguish members of the committee, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to testify today. i'm honored to join my colleague, lee wolosky. mr. chairman, i particularly appreciate your continued and sustained interest in this extremely important issue. at the outset, i want to echo special envoy wolosky's statement and one final point regarding the detention facility at guantanamo bay. the president and his national
security team have determined closing this detention facility is a bipartisan national security imperative. the president has repeatedly stated that the continued operation of the detention facility at guantanamo weakens our national security by damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, draining resources and providing violent extremists with a propaganda tool. in january of last year, 42 retired military leaders, all retired general officers or flag officers, wrote the leadership of the senate armed services committee and force flee argued for the closure -- forcefully argued for the closure of this facility. saying it's not a political issue. there is near unanimous agreement from our nation's top military and law enforcement leaders that guantanamo should be closed. this letter was signed by general charles c. krulak, a retired commandant of the marine corps. major general michael leonard,
the first general of the joint task force at guantanamo. general joseph hoar. general david maddox, the former commander of the u.s. army in europe. and many other leaders. many of these leaders reaffirmed this letter this month. as lee noted, in addition, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, admiral michael mullen and dempsey supports closure. envoy wolosky has supported gitmo closure but i think it's important to highlight this broad conclusion. this conclusion shared by two presidents, four former secretaries of defense, eight former secretaries of state and it demonstrates this bipartisan support at the highest level of our national security eadership. as envoy wolosky noted, in his memoirs, president george w. bush himself concluded that the guantanamo detention facility
was a propaganda tool for our enemies and a distraction for our allies. the president himself made this statement. and as president obama recently noted, by 2008, it was widely recognized that this facility needed to close. this was not my opinion. this is the bipartisan support to close it. as the special envoy for guantanamo detention closure, my primary focus is on the transfer process. 16 detainees have been transferred to date in 2016. these transfers have reduced the guantanamo detention facility's population to fewer than 100 for the first time since 2002. overall, 27 nations since 2009 have accepted guantanamo detainees who are not from that perspective country. in addition, 13 other countries or territories have accepted repatriation of their own citizens since 2009. as with our military leaders,
foreign leaders regularly cite the guantanamo detention facility as an obstacle to counterterrorism efforts. in my written statement, i cite several statements. cliff sloan, envoy wolosky's predecessor, noted an example. as a highly ranking security official from one of our staunchest allies on counterterrorism once told me, the greatest single action the united states can take to fight terrorism is to close guantanamo. and i note highlights by our counterterrorism experts from the previous administration. john bellinger and matt waxman who both worked for the department of state noted the counterterrorism effects of not closing gitmo. and i describe them in more detail in my opening statement. mr. chairman, i'm also prepared to address the plan to close guantanamo detention facility. the president announcing the plan stated that it has four main elements. we'll continue to transfer, we'll accelerate the p.r.b.
process, we'll look for individual dispositions and most importantly, we'll work with congress to find a location to transfer everybody from guantanamo safely and securely. as far as the transfer process, i just want to state that secretary carter has forcefully stated that safety is his number one priority. he does not transfer a detainee unless he's confident that the threat is substantially mitigated and it's in the national security interests of the united states. finally, i'd like to take a moment to recognize the military service members conducting detention operations at guantanamo bay. too often in the course of considering the future of this facility we lose sight of the remarkable men and women who serve honorably under extraordinarily difficult conditions. they have the deepest appreciation for their service and their professionalism which they display each and every day on behalf of our nation. gentlemen, president bush worked towards closing guantanamo.
many officials in his administration worked hard towards that objection. of the nearly 800 detainees that have been held at guantanamo since the facility opened, over 85% have been transferred. including more than 500 that were transferred by the previous administration. the president, his national security experts and this administration believe it should be closed. the senior military leaders of this country and the leaders of the department of defense concur. as indicated in the letter by the retired military leaders, many believe that closure of this facility is the single most important counterterrorism effort the united states can undertake. we believe the issue is not whether to close the guantanamo detention facility, it's how to do it. thank you and i look forward to your questions. mr. royce: let me ask both our witnesses. ecretary of defense carter and
attorney general lynch have both stated that transfers of guantanamo detainees to the united states are legally prohibited. is that your understanding of the law as well? mr. wolosky: it's my understanding of the law that the statute in its current form prohibits transfers to the united states, which is why we are working at this time with the congress or seeking to work with the congress to modify the law in order to be able to bring into the united states a small, a minimum number of a -- reducible minimum number of detainees as described in the president's closure plan. mr. royce: is it correct, then, that under current law the department of defense is prohibited from expecting any u.s. site or making any preparations for transfer of detainees to the u.s.? mr. wolosky: frankly, i have no idea. that is a legal question that is most appropriately directed to
the department of defense. mr. royce: mr. lewis. mr. lewis: mr. chairman, we believe detainees can be safely and securely and humanely detained in the united states. we believe -- i believe that current statute does prohibit it -- prohibit us from doing hat. the plan that was sent up, we gave a look at locations. military facilities and federal and state facilities that could do that. we believe detainees, as i said, can be detained. we did not pick a specific ocation. mr. royce: the -- one of the concerns that congress clearly has here is that in terms of our experience with those who have left guantanamo bay over the long haul, those that returned to the fight or those who are expected to return to the fight is a little over 30%. i understand the argument that the administration's making that
the overall number is in the neighborhood of 31%. and if we begin to focus on some of the recent examples of those who did, it is pretty concerning that ibrahim qosi, he was one of the high-risk detainees transferred by this administration and by 2014 he had joined al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. and now he is in their leadership. and last month we saw video urging a takeover in saudi arabia. now, he would not be out doing his propaganda if he were housed in guantanamo. and one of the concerns i have about the rap sheet on those inside, as we make the argument -- we've been through these discussions but we make the argument about the necessity of releasing them, but the fact is, the bottom line is they end up, a certain percentage of them, pulling stunts like this. calling for the overthrow of the government in saudi arabia and very engaged in that process. nd so in terms of -- i
understand the theory that it's a recruitment tool, that thesis, but the fact is that a percentage -- a significant percentage return to the fight and we have an unclassified letter to congress last month from the director of national intelligence writing that the intelligence community lacks reporting that guantanamo propaganda has motivated recent isis groups to join the group. so there is a debate. i certainly talked to former administration high ranking officers and officials who have he opposite view of the view you laid out today, who tell me, no, they don't think it has to do with recruitment. we understand your theory on it, but there is the fact and the fact is that we do have this process. so let me ask you this question. e do have this challenge because of the way this process is releasing individuals to
countries that don't have the capabilities. so here's my question. mr. lewis lists in his testimony some of the countries that the administration has transferred detainees to since 2009. so, mr. lewis, el salvador, kazakhstan, ghana -- and i would just ask lee, have you been to ghana? this is one of the countries that i've been to. are you fully confident that it has the capability and motivation to monitor and track these detainees? mr. wolosky: mr. chairman, yes, we are. as you know, no transfer occurs unless we are confident in the security assurances that we have received and the secretary of defense makes the requisite certifications to the congress. to date -- and we only have admittedly several months of experience -- what i can tell to you in this open quorum --
we're happy to come and brief you in closed session -- is that we are very pleased by the implementation by the government of ghana of the security assurances that have been agreed to. mr. royce: as i say, i've been to ghana and across west africa. ghana is a wonderful place. it's a wonderful country, but the fact is that it doesn't have top-notch intelligence or law enforcement services to deal with this kind of problem. the g.d.p. per capita is like $4,000. it's 175th in the world. the fact is that their leaders have many, many challenges in ghana facing them every day. so i'm going to guess the tracking and monitoring former guantanamo detainees isn't a priority, just as it wasn't in other examples that i've laid for you -- laid out for you like uruguay. it just wasn't a high -- you know, up there and if they
weren't returning or if 31% of them hadn't returned to the fight, this wouldn't be a oncern, lee. but this is a very real concern. i'll go to mr. engel for his questioning. mr. engel: thank you, mr. chairman. you know, emotionally because of terrorism and the attacks on 9/11 and the attacks in brussels and things that we're hearing, emotionally you just want to say, well, you know, throw them all in jail and put them all in jail and throw away the key. but that's not how we're supposed to work as a nation. that's not what we stand for and i don't believe we should abandon our principles if we can still be safe. i would say that things are a tradeoff. i wouldn't be for abandoning our principles if it meant there was
going to be a larger chance of being unsafe as a result of releasing or transferring some of these people. but when you read the facts and you look at the facts, you see that it's really worse by keeping them there. ave a balance sheet. now, i'm not for releasing anybody who was guilty, but i'm also not for keeping people in prison year after year after year after year with no trial. that's not what i learned when i was in grade school about one of the reasons why this country is so great. opponents of closing the guantanamo detention facility often say that the people currently in the prison are the worst of the worst or the most dangerous and that's why we should not release them at all. some critics point to risk assessments from the previous administration, from the bush administration, in support of this claim. what's your view of how risk
assessments have been conducted by the interagency task force and the periodic review boards compared with previous risk assessments? and given what you know about detainees currently held at guantanamo, are they really the most dangerous? and if not, why have they been in guantanamo for so long? is it because we've already transferred all the easy cases? explain how these people have been adjudicated? mr. wolosky: thank you, congressman, for the questions. there are extremely dangerous people that remain in guantanamo, but it's also the case there are individuals in guantanamo who are not extremely dangerous. of the 36 that are currently approved for transfer, 29 are yemeni nationals and, of course, we've been unable to return them o yemen. returning them to the country of
origin is always our first choice in removing a guantanamo detainee from guantanamo. so there's a significant component of country of origin that goes into the remaining detainee population and why they are still there. with respect to your first question, it sort of bleeds into the re-engagement issues that the chairman raised which i appreciate the opportunity to address because we actually do have hard data on re-engagement and i'd like to refer you to the numbers in the report issued by the office of director of national intelligence earlier this month on re-engagement. the actual numbers are in this administration seven confirmed re-engagement former detainees. in the previous administration,
111. seven in this administration out of 144 transferred. that translates into 4.9%. the number for the previous administration is 111 out of 532 which translates into 20.9%. we believe that this data affirms that the procedures that we have put in place during this administration have worked to substantially reduce any e-engagement concerns. and i also think that you're exactly right when you indicated in your opening statement that he risks of transferring detainees and we've acknowledged that there are risks, must be weighed against the risks of keeping the facility open.
there has been, until recently, a bipartisan consensus that there are signal security and foreign policy risks associated with keeping the facility pen. that was articulated by the previous president who transferred over 500 detainees out of guantanamo and furtherance of his efforts to close guantanamo because he recognized it was a propaganda tool. the conclusion was also reached by nonpartisan military leaders across the services. so i think that when we talk -- i'll stop speaking in a moment. when we talk about re-engagement, it is important to refer to the actual data that has been put forward by the director of national intelligence. mr. engel: well, let me ask you. who's left at guantanamo?
is it correct that 91 individuals -- of the 91 individuals who remain at guantanamo, 81 are now facing criminal charges, is that true? and is it also correct that 35 individuals have been cleared for transfer out of guantanamo? so what does that mean to be transferred out? who decides? how long have they been cleared for transfer? why are they still waiting to leave? mr. wolosky: thank you for your question. there are 91 detainees in guantanamo. 36 have been approved for transfer. some of them have been approved for transfer since 2010. some of them more recently. 0 have been -- are in some portion, some stage of the military commission process. either facing charges or serving sentences. and the remainder, 40-some-odd detainees, are neither approved
for transfer nor currently facing charges. mr. engel: mr. chairman, if you can indulge me, i want to ask a federal court question because the administration's plan calls for some guantanamo detainees to be tried in the u.s. federal courts, and congress has imposed a ban on transferring any guantanamo detainees to the u.s. for any reason, including for trial. but from what i can see, federal courts have been extremely effective at trying terrorists, terrorism cases. since 9/11, federal courts have convicted over 500 people on terrorism-related offenses, and by contrast, the 9/11 military commission trial has been in pretrial hearings since 2012. so the trial itself is not expected to start until 2020. so why have the federal courts, in your opinion, been so much more effective at bringing these terrorists to justice? mr. wolosky: the federal courts
are a proven mechanism for both convicting and then making sure that convicted felons serve time afely and responsibly. you're right, there are numerous terrorists who have been effectively convicted and are now serving time in the federal prison system. the times square bombers, richard reid, the shoe bomber, mr. tsarnaev, the boston marathon bomber. moussaoui. the list goes on. they all have been held safely and securely. back to the point the chairman raised about mr. al kosi, he was released from the custody of the united states after serving his military commission sentence. so he is an example of someone who went through the military commission system, was -- pled guilty to material support and conspiracy, and then after he
served his sentence in that system, he was released. if he were put through the article 3 system, he would probably still be serving his sentence and not be off doing what he's been doing. >> if i could, we were talking about two sets of numbers so if i could address that quickly before we go to the next member. mr. royce: in terms of the administration's numbers they released. the administration's claim is .9% of those released by the president are confirmed or suspected of terrorism. you're using the number confirm the administration released the figure, overall the rate is 31%.
investigators tell us it takes four years to confirm system of there is -- there is a question in terms of the trendline on etainees' recidivism but the overall rate i'm quoting here is the rate that -- on confirmed or suspected. we'll go now to mr. chris smith of new jersey. mr. smith: thank you very much, mr. chairman. welcome both of you to the committee. yesterday i chair and oversight hearing on -- focusing on the 14 countries that reuters found after a series of investigative reports. i want this on the record and i hope the press takes note of this because i think it's an egregious flaw in the trafficking victims protection act, which i am the author of. i'm deeply concerned that cuba's tier 3 state department ranking, which is the worst, it was designated in the bush administration, and then in the
obama administration and then manipulated politically for nonhuman trafficking in anticipation of the rapprochement. i think it should be accurate. it should speak truth to power when it comes to sex trafficking and child sex tourism which is rampant and the castro regime gleans enormous profits from t. we have an upgrade which takes them off the sanctions list which i find to be appalling. yesterday, one of our witnesses pointed out that the cuban government is likely one of the largest and most profitable trafficking promoters in the entire world. so my hope is that this year and yesterday's title of our hearing was next time get it right, there will be no political manipulation of the trafficking
tiers. if you read the report itself, it reads inescapably to a tier 3 sanctions rating, but when it got to another level there was a manipulation there for political reasons and i find that appalling and deeply, deeply saddening. let me ask you a question on point. the point man in uruguay as we all know for overseeing the guantanamo detainees is the minister of the interior, minister bonami. are you confident in his ability to ensuring that these six individuals don't threaten our embassy personnel or american nationals in uruguay. in other words, do you trust eduardo bonami and believe he's a man of honorable character? mr. wolosky: i don't know him ut what i can say is we're
confident, there's never no risk associated with transferring a etainee. the appropriate calculus, we believe, is the one essentially congressman engel put forward, weighing the risks of transferring versus the risks which have been recognize aid cross the spectrum of maintaining the facility. but we are confident, to your question, that the government of uruguay is taking appropriate teps to substantially mitigate the risk associated with each of the six detainees that have been transferred to its custody. mr. smith: again, is it your view that this particular minister, an avowed left itself, is trustworthy? he's the guardian. mr. wolosky: i don't agree with that necessarily. when we look at countries to resettle detainees in, we do not base it on personality well,
base it on the government as a whole, the capabilities of the government as a whole, and the willingness of the government. and then of course the specific security assurances that have been negotiated and our assessment of whether or not those security assurances can and will be implemented. mr. smith: he's likely to be the point man or is the point man, could you provide for the record your analysis as to his trustworthiness? mr. wolosky: i can't because i don't know him. when we look at transfer opportunities we base our conclusions on the capabilities of a government. mr. smith: but he's the point person for the goth. mr. wolosky: he may be now but may not be tomorrow. we don't rely on particular personalities is the bottom line. mr. smith: i understand but with all due respect, personnel is policy. if a government has a person walking point on a particular issue like this one, and it happens to be this minister of interior, we want to know if he's a person who can be
trusted, particularly with such people who have committed terrorism and may recommit. mr. wolosky: again, i have not met him so i feel uncomfortable offering a personal assessment and what we do do is we base our decisions on governments as a whole. mr. smith: that's why for the record if you could provide additional amplify case of those who analyze the situation and felt comfortable enough to proceed with this vis-a-vis this particular minister. mr. wolosky: the department of state felt comfortable. mr. smith: could you provide us that analysis in followup answer. mr. wolosky: to be clear, the analysis of -- mr. royce: we can do that through followup answers, we need to go to mr. david cicilline. mr. cicilline: thank you, mr. hairman.
the title of this hearing is the costs of the plan to close guantanamo bay. huffer the vast majority of national security leaders as you both indicated as well as leaders on both sides of the political spectrum say that the real foreign policy and national security costs come as a result of keeping the prison open and describe it as the closing of guantanamo bay detention facility as a national security imperative system of i'd like you to speak to how the administration's plan to close guantanamo bay detention facility will impact our ability to work with our coalition partners in the fight against terror and how that failure to close it is providing a real impediment to that critical work. >> thank you, sir. as i noted in my opening statement, continuously, countries across the world and allies tell us that gitmo hurts o.
mr. lewis: we worked with those countries by closing git moe, we address a concern with the rest of the world. the united states needs to lead. we can't do this alone. and when our allies are -- in counterterrorism are telling us that gitmo needs to be closed, we take an issue off the table. we don't remove the risk completely, it's always going to be a propaganda issue, but we take that issue off the table. and -- mr. cicilline: does the presence of guantanamo bay have an impact on our ability to use diplomacy to press other countries to uphold human rights, things we speak about with other countries and has our credibility been harmed by the continued indefinite detentions at guantanamo bay and the opening f this facility? mr. lewis: yes, sir, i believe it does. the president noted leaders he meets with continuously raise the issue of gitmo and specific detainees.
lee's predecessor, cliff sloan, mentioned how he's been told by foreign leaders that closing gitmo would be the single greatest issue to help our counterterrorism efforts and repeated leaders from both this administration and the priest administration have said the same. so i think it does hurt us. mr. cicilline: with respect to the 36 detainees approved for transfer, some since 2010, what is taking so lock for that to be pleated? mr. lewis: as lee said, most of them are yemenis, so we can't confidently send them to yemen right now. we have to look at a list of 7 other countries that have stepped up to find a fit for hat detainee, find a fit for security situation in the country, their willingness and capacity so it's a mixture of sequencing, it's a mixture of the domestic issues in the country, but 27 countries
demonstrates there are countries that want to help us and are willing to step up and we are confident that the majority of these 36 can be transferred the next several months. mr. cicilline: with respect to issues with re-engagement, office of director of national intelligence categorizing these re-engagements in three different ways for purposes of this hearing. 17.5% of detainees have re-engaged but if you break that number down, prior to this president prior to january of 2009, the number was 20.9%. but since president obama, the figure is 4.9%. will you explain, are those figures accurate? what do they represent? and how do you account for the dramatic reduction in re-engagement which is critical. those are obviously any re-engage suspect alarming but the fact that it's been brought
to 4.9% from 20% didn't happen just by magic. it has to have been some change in process. would you speak to that? mr. wolosky: sure. there have been many changes in process put in place in this administration from the actual decision to approve someone for transfer which is a complicated, time consuming, very thorough and rigorous interagency process, and only moves forward with the consent of each of six agency and departments, to then the actual decision to transfer and approve for transfer detainee to a specific country which again is a rigorous interagency process that entails the negotiation of details and quite specific security assurances with the specific country and then ultimately input from the same six agencies and departments and then
congressional notification by the secretary of defense. so our process is very thorough, it's very rigorous, very time consuming, further to your question about why things have taken so long, and we believe that again there's never no risk. but we believe that the relative success of our processes are reflected in the re-engagement figures when you look at the figure, the small figure in this administration and the larger figure in the previous administration. mr. cicilline: thank you. i yield back and thank you, mr. hairman. mr. royce: mr. rohrabacher. mr. rohrabacher: the first question i'd like to ask, i think it can be answered with a yes or no. has the defense department ever knowingly transferred a detainee to a country that did not exhibit an ability to
substantially mitigate the risk or maintain control of that individual? i think a yes or no could be -- that's a very straightforward question. no? has the defense department ever sent someone to a country knowing that that country was unable to keep control of that person? mr. lewis: no. mr. wolosky: i'm not with the defense department but i asame you mean this administration. mr. rohrabacher: actually i'm not. do you know of any examples? is there some reason you can't say yes or no? mr. wolosky: i don't work at the department of defense. mr. rohrabacher: do you know of a case where the deft defense department has knowingly ransferred a detainee to a country that did not exhibit the ability to substantially mitigate the risk by maintaining
control of the individual? do you know of a case like that? mr. lewis: i do not. mr. wolosky: the statutory standard -- mr. rohrabacher: it's all right, you made your answer. et me suggest that this idea that people throughout the world are going to be so -- are so pset with us for keeping a significant number of people who are captured as part of terrorist units incarcerating them in guantanamo, that is such a horror story that it's a recruitment vehicle, that's what the president is telling us, that's what the administration is telling us, let me suggest if that is true that our european allies and some others believe
that taking these hardened murderers, who murder men, women, and children, and incarcerating them on cuba or anywhere else, let me suggest that that attitude of our european friends may well be changing in the next six months or so when they realize that the slaughter that's taking place in paris and now in brussels is part of an international movement to destroy western civilization and replace it with a caliphate. and when they understand that, my guess is that view that it's so bad to keep these people in prison will change as well. let me ask you this. we say that about 30% or whatever that figure is that have been released have been -- have returned to terrorist activities. how many lives have been lost by those terrorists who went back to their terrorist ctivities?
how many lives? mr. lewis: i can talk about that in a classified setting. mr. rohrabacher: classified? o is it over 10? mr. lewis: what i can tell you is unfortunately there have been americans that have died because of gitmo detainees. mr. rohrabacher: how many americans have to die, how many people in brussels or paris have o die, civilians, what's the threshold at that point maybe we will keep them under control in gitmo? mr. lewis: when anybody dies it's a tragedy and we don't want anybody to die because we transferred detainees, however, it's the best judgment and the considered judgment of this administration and the previous administration that the risk of keeping gitmo open is outweighed -- that we should close gitmo. mr. rohrabacher: so the innocent people who are going to lose their lives because of this are
just part of the equation. i'm sorry, i want to tell you this much. as far as i'm concerned if one child is saved because she would have been blown up by someone who is being released, it's better to keep all 90 of those people in gitmo. and this idea that the people of the world, oh, they're so upset with us, that it's a recruiting vehicle that we've kept terrorists who murder innocent people in gitmo, well you know what, i think that the bigger recruiting tool today is when our government, especially this administration, is perceived as being weak. i think terrorists are recruited not because we've held other terrorists in prison, but because we look like we're weak and cannot deal with the challenge. this disgusts me. thank you very much. mr. royce: robin kelly of illinois. ms. kelly: thank you, mr. chairman.
yesterday i returned from cuba with president obama's delegation where we discussed the opening of u.s.-cuba relations. while we have made steps toward bilateral relations, president castro said relations with the united states will never be fully normal as long as the united states occupy the guantanamo bay facility. how do you imagine the continued use of the guantanamo bay acility would affect normalizing relationship between he united states and cuba? mr. wolosky: as the president aid this administration has no plans to leave, to turn over the base at guantanamo bay, uba. we are in fact, as you know, to close the detention facility at that base, we would expect to continue to use the base for
dealing with mass migration ontingencies and also to support coast guard operations with respect to counterdrug operations in the region. ms. kelly: to what extent do you believe this local diplomatic security could contribute to advancing our national security efforts? mr. wolosky: president obama feels firmly that closing guantanamo is in the national security interests of the united states. no detainee is transferred from guantanamo absent a certification from the secretary of defense that the specific transfer will further the national security of the united states and as i said in my opening statement, president obama was hardly the first u.s. president to conclude that
closing guantanamo was in the national security and foreign policy interests of the united states. the first president to do that was a man who opened it up, george w. bush, who concluded that it was a propaganda tool and distraction to our llies. not only did he believe that, he acted on it. in transferring over 500 detainees from guantanamo to other countries. so -- from guantanamo to other countries system of believe as did president bush, as did numerous former secretaries of tate of both parties, same for secretaries of defense, same for three chairmen, former chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff, and numerous retired flag officers that closing guantanamo will on balance enhance our national security. as we have said, you cannot live life without risk and the proper
analysis as congressman engel suggested, we believe is balancing the risks of keeping it open versus the risks of closing it. and you know, we worked diligently to prevent re-engagement. we've been quite successful in this administration in preventing re-engagement and even one detainee returning to the fight is too many. but the proper analysis is balancing closure versus the risks of keeping it open. and i would point out that obviously our hearts go out to the people of belgium today. and our hearts went out to the people of paris just a few short months ago. but the maintenance, the continued maintenance of the facility at guantanamo bay did not prevent either of those attacks. there are unfortunately going to be acts of terrorism, probably
whether the facility is opened or closed. the proper analysis is what are the risks of keeping it open in light of the very obvious use of that facility as a propaganda tool, which frankly you should not have to question. isil which has now claimed responsibility for the belgium attacks, uses guantanamo as a prop began a da tool. there's no question about this. we have all seen images of risoners taken by isil being executed wearing orange jumpsuits that we believe are meant to mimic and evoke the guantanamo jumpsuits. there's no question it's being used as a propaganda tool as president bush himself concluded when he determined to close the facility. ms. kelly: i'm running out of time so thank yo