Republican lawmakers took aim at reports that the Pentagon would give COVID-19 vaccines to detainees at Guantanamo Bay while millions of vulnerable Americans wait in line for their turn to get inoculated.
Recent reports indicate that the Pentagon plans to offer vaccines to the 40 prisoners housed at the facility starting as early as next week. Those detained in Guantanamo Bay include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks which killed 2,977 Americans.
Department of Defense spokesman Michael Howard told The New York Post that an order had been signed that will see vaccinations “offered to all detainees and prisoners” and will be administered on a voluntary basis.
Clayton Trivett, the prosecutor in the case against five Guantanamo Bay prisoners who stand accused of taking part in plotting the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, wrote a letter to defense lawyers saying that “an official in the Pentagon has just signed a memo approving the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine to the detainee population in Guantánamo,” according to The New York Times.
The move has sparked anger among Republican lawmakers, with some accusing President Joe Biden of putting the needs of accused terrorists ahead of law-abiding Americans.
“It is inexcusable and un-American that President Biden is choosing to prioritize vaccinations for convicted terrorists in Gitmo over vulnerable American seniors or veterans,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said in a tweet Saturday.
“Outrageous. The Biden Administration is giving vaccines to terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. What do they say to American seniors and veterans still waiting for theirs?” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) wrote in a tweet Saturday.
“Nothing says #unity like letting the 9/11 mastermind & Gitmo detainees skip in front of millions of Americans for the COVID #vaccine,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), in a tweet.
The U.S. naval base in Guantanamo began inoculating its 6,000 residents earlier this month, although detainees were not believed to have been included.
Biden has made ramping up vaccinations a priority, announcing a plan to inoculate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.
The move to include Gitmo detainees in the vaccination rollout also sparked outrage from New Yorkers who witnessed the collapse of the World Trade Center firsthand and helped respond to the fallout.
“You can’t make this up. 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,” said Tom Von Essen, who was city Fire Commissioner during 9/11 and lost 343 firefighters that day, according to The New York Post.