Politics

Ayotte Touts Pentagon Report About Gitmo Detainees as Hassan Talks Security Policy

More reason the prison facility's likely to stay open

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte says she has lifted a hold on the Pentagon's general counsel nominee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Kelly Ayotte is claiming success getting the Pentagon to release new details about detainees held at the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay.

The New Hampshire Republican circulated a Defense Department report Wednesday morning that she requested in the fiscal 2016 defense policy bill, as well as by applying a procedural hold on confirming the nomination of Jennifer O'Connor for general counsel at the Pentagon.

"Most of the detainees who remain at Guantanamo are the worst of the worst, as demonstrated by the fact that 93 percent of the detainees who remained there as of late last year had been assessed as a high risk for a return to terrorism," Ayotte said in a statement. "This report demonstrates once again why we need a common sense law of war detention policy—focused on the security of Americans and nothing else—that keeps terrorists off the battlefield and gathers the intelligence necessary to prevent future attacks."

The report is a further sign that President Barack Obama will not realize his goal of shuttering the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Station, a long-term commitment that's been consistently stymied by congressional opposition.

Ayotte's touting of the report came as her Democratic challenger, Granite State Gov. Maggie Hassan, spoke in Manchester about her national security agenda.

"The United States has the strongest armed forces in the world, and we must maintain our military superiority. At the same time, we must remain the greatest force for good and ensure that the use of our military might is a last resort. And we must demonstrate to all those who seek to do us harm that they can never defeat the resilience and spirit that defines New Hampshire and the United States of America," Hassan said. "That is what I will do in the United States Senate."

Ayotte's campaign criticized Hassan's statement that, "I will stand up to anyone, regardless of political party, to keep our country safe."

"Hassan has been silent on the Obama administration's ransom payment to Iran and refused to justify her continued support for the Iran Deal; refused to address [Democratic presidential nominee Hillary] Clinton's mishandling of classified information; and waffled on Syrian refugee resettlement," Ayotte campaign spokeswoman Liz Johnson said Wednesday.

Defense and foreign policy questions have factored prominently in the New Hampshire Senate race, with Hassan's campaign pointing to a local television report saying that Ayotte did not answer a query about trusting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump with the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Contact Lesniewski at NielsLesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

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