The Department of Defense halted plans Saturday afternoon to begin offering COVID-19 vaccines to the 40 prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay, where alleged 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad has been held for the last 14 years, beginning next week.
“No Guantanamo detainees have been vaccinated. We’re pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols,” said Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby in a statement. “We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe.”
No Guantanamo detainees have been vaccinated. We’re pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols. We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe.
— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) January 30, 2021
Clayton G. Trivett Jr., a prosecutor in cases against five Guantanamo Bay detainees, told The New York Times that a Pentagon official signed a memo “approving the delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine to the detainee population in Guantánamo” on a voluntary basis. A Pentagon spokesperson told the Times on Friday that the memo had been signed on Wednesday by Dr. Terry Adirim, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.
Before the order was paused, Pentagon spokesperson Michael Howard told the New York Post that any COVID-19 vaccines would be administered to prisoners “in accordance with the Department’s priority distribution plans.”
The Pentagon’s decision to put the detainee-vaccination plan on hold comes after lawmakers and New Yorkers voiced opposition to the plan, particularly in light of the ongoing need to vaccinate more senior citizens around the United States.
“President Biden told us he would have a plan to defeat the virus on day 1. He just never told us that it would be to give the vaccine to terrorists before most Americans,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). After the Department of Defense reversed the guidance in the memo, McCarthy simply responded: “Good.”
President Biden told us he would have a plan to defeat the virus on day 1. He just never told us that it would be to give the vaccine to terrorists before most Americans.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 30, 2021
“You can’t make this up,” Tom Von Essen, the New York City fire commissioner during the September 11 attacks, told the New York Post after the policy was revealed. “The ridiculousness of what we get from our government. They will run the vaccine down to those lowlifes at Guantanamo Bay before every resident of the United States of America gets it is the theater of the absurd.”
New York State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R) called it a “national disgrace” and “embarrassment” for the U.S. to inoculate any “terrorists arm” before the county was done vaccinating senior citizens, first responders, and all of those who have pre-existing conditions caused by 9-11 related illnesses.
— Colin Schmitt (@colinschmitt) January 30, 2021
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