Female soldiers serving at Guantanamo Bay are not being allowed to transport inmates following a court order issued in response to prisoners who complained on religious grounds, according to Republican senators who recently returned from a visit to the prison camp.
Inmates apparently complained the female soldiers' actions were an insult to their Islamic faith, but the senators blasted the court decision as an "insult to women." Top U.S. military leaders agreed the directive is "outrageous," while suggesting they're currently bound by the order.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., first revealed the decision at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday morning. She told Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford that on a visit Friday to the detention center, she was told female soldiers were not being allowed to transport the “9/11 five” – five inmates suspected of masterminding the 2001 terror attack -- after the court order.
“We have a situation down there where we met with women guards who are being prevented from fully performing their mission because the five 9/11 attackers who are charged with killing 3,000 Americans will not allow them to perform their duties because they're women,” Ayotte said.
“It’s outrageous,” Dunford agreed. “That’s being worked by lawyers, it’s an injunction. I’m not using that as an excuse, but that’s where it is right now.”
“I think it is counter to the way we treat service members, including female service members, and outrageous is a very good word for it,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter added.
A military judge issued the order in January prohibiting female guards from transporting the defendants, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to and from legal proceedings after they refused to meet with defense lawyers and complained that any physical contact with unrelated women violated their Muslim beliefs.
The ruling by Army Col. James Pohl was meant to deal with their complaints, which posed a threat to legal proceedings.
At a press conference following Tuesday's Senate hearing, Sens. Ayotte; Tim Scott, R-S.C.; and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. -- who accompanied Ayotte on the visit to the facility -- expanded on the issue.
Capito said the country is letting the "9/11 five dictate" the procedures in the U.S. military, adding that it is “amazing” a military judge would rule in such a way.
"Terrorists should not dictate to us what our men and women in uniform are permitted to do," Ayotte said. “This is not an insult to Islam, it's an insult to women.”
Fox News’ Kara Rowland and The Associated Press contributed to this report.