WASHINGTON — Some Democratic lawmakers who support closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, say the U.S. should reconsider whether to repatriate suspected terrorists from Yemen.
President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said Sunday the transfers will continue if the administration deems them warranted.
Six Yemenis returned last month were released after the government there determined they were not a threat, officials in Yemen told the Associated Press.
Obama has said an al-Qaida group operating in Yemen apparently was behind the plot to bring down a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
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Although Republicans have criticized the transfers to Yemen, some Democrats, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein of California, also have urged a halt.
Rep. Jane Harman of California, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said Sunday that officials should review the transfers. She support plans to close the prison and open one in Illinois for terrorism suspects.
"I think it is a bad time to send the 90 or so Yemenis back to Yemen," Harman said.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who has opposed closing Guantanamo, said transferring any of the Yemeni detainees back home would be irresponsible.
"We know from past experience that some of them will be back in the fight against us," Lieberman said.
U.S. officials believe two Saudis released from Guantanamo, one in 2006 and the other in 2007, may have played significant roles in al-Qaida activities in Yemen.
An estimated 90 Yemenis are being held at Guantanamo Bay and about half are set to be sent to Yemen. Those who remain in U.S. custody will be prosecuted in criminal or military courts, Brennan said.
"Some of these individuals are going to be transferred back to Yemen at the right time and the right pace and in the right way," Brennan said. "We're making sure that the situation on the ground is taken into account, that we continue to work with the Yemeni government, and we do this in a very commonsense fashion because we want to make sure that we are able to close Guantanamo."