Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement denouncing U.S. lack of support for the Kurds in Northeastern Syria.

“What happened to the Kurds in Northeastern Syria is an abomination. The United States’ failure to do everything that we reasonably could to prevent the current fate of the Kurds is a betrayal of a key partner and a major foreign policy blunder.

“Literally adding insult to injury, it is also totally unacceptable that the President has been relentless in hurling a barrage of insults at the Kurds over the course of the last two weeks. This is a difficult set of circumstances, and it would be naïve to blame only the President for this tragic situation. A series of factors contributed to how this played out. But for the President to disparage the Kurds as ‘worse terrorists than ISIS’ and remarking, ‘what do we care, they never really helped us anyway,’ is unbelievably offensive and unnecessary. The Kurds have fought alongside us, and if nothing else, they deserve our gratitude and respect.

“The President has stated that he ‘defeated ISIS in a month.’ That is simply untrue. The effort to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria began in 2015, with our agreement with the Kurds and other free democratic forces in Syria who agreed fight ISIS in support of our common goal.

“The Kurds have been shoved off their land, the strength of the Syrian Democratic Forces is severely weakened, and an obvious question remains: Who is going to help us fight ISIS in the region now? The President has given a range of answers, but the one he seems to have settled on is Russia. That is not reassuring. I urge the White House to work on a plan for how we’re going to confront ISIS in the region, and which partners and allies we’re going to work with. Our own national security depends on it.

“Finally, the President declaring victory in Syria is a gross misunderstanding of the situation. Once the Kurds realized they had no ability to fight Turkey and no one to help them, they surrendered instead of fighting. There is no victory here. Turkey invaded a foreign country and forced the Kurds off their land. This is a loss for U.S. interests in the region. Now, Russia and the Assad regime are stronger in the region. Most problematic, Iran is stronger in the region. The President has repeatedly talked about how bad Iran is and how we need to contain them. Now Iran finds a Syria that is completely amenable to their interests, which are contrary to U.S. interests. These recent developments highlight the necessity for a new comprehensive strategy for containing Iran. It is critical that we work with partners and allies in our continued fight against terror. Not doing so sends the wrong signal to our partners and allies everywhere.

“I personally thank the Kurdish people for all they have done and sacrificed for us in the fight against terrorism. I respect and honor our alliance with them and will do everything I can to try and help them rebuild.”

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Letter also raises ongoing investigation into 2018 death of Russian asylum seeker held at NWDC

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D, WA-09) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General calling for a review of the use of solitary confinement at the Northwest Detention Center.

"We write to express our deep concerns regarding the use of solitary confinement at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington,” Cantwell and Smith wrote to DHS Inspector General Dr. Joseph V. Cuffari. “According to news reports, several hundred individuals have been held in solitary confinement at the NWDC between 2013 and 2017.”

“We understand that your office conducted an inspection of the NWDC in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and is currently conducting a review and preparing a report on its findings. As part of this review, we urge you to take a close look at the policies and practices related to solitary confinement and other reported abuses at the NWDC that have impacted the health, safety and legal rights of individuals held in the facility. A thorough review by your office is critical to holding ICE and the GEO Group, the private contractor operating the NWDC, accountable for the treatment of individuals at the NWDC,” Cantwell and Smith continued.

In their letter, Cantwell and Smith also raised the ongoing investigation into the 2018 death of Mergensana Amar, a Russian asylum seeker detained in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Northwest Detention Center.

“Separately, we urge you to complete the report on the tragic death of Mergensana Amar. It has been almost a year since this investigation began. It is imperative that the investigation is completed in a timely manner and if possible for the results to be made public.”

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.

October 23, 2019

Dear Inspector General Cuffari:

We write to express our deep concerns regarding the use of solitary confinement at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington. According to news reports, several hundred individuals have been held in solitary confinement at the NWDC between 2013 and 2017. Local activists also have indicated that detainees have been placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for complaining about poor conditions at the NWDC. These reports are deeply troubling especially considering the known negative impacts that solitary confinement can have on the physical and mental health of individuals regardless of the duration of time they are held in isolation.

The misuse of solitary confinement at immigration detention centers was highlighted in a report issued by your office on June 3, 2019. Following inspections at four detention facilities, the report found overly restrictive and inappropriate segregation practices at three of the detention facilities, violating U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention standards and infringing on individual rights.

The tragic death of Mergensana Amar, a Russian asylum seeker who was held at the NWDC last year, once again raised concerns about the use of solitary confinement. Before his death on November 24, 2018, Mr. Amar had been on a hunger strike for three months and placed in an isolated cell that reportedly lacked adequate provisions and monitoring. Days after being placed in solitary confinement, Mr. Amar tragically took his own life. While we welcome the decision by your predecessor, John Kelly, to open an investigation surrounding Mr. Amar’s death, it is clear a broader atmosphere of abuse and mistreatment exists at the NWDC. 

We understand that your office conducted an inspection of the NWDC in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and is currently conducting a review and preparing a report on its findings. As part of this review, we urge you to take a close look at the policies and practices related to solitary confinement and other reported abuses at the NWDC that have impacted the health, safety and legal rights of individuals held in the facility. A thorough review by your office is critical to holding ICE and the GEO Group, the private contractor operating the NWDC, accountable for the treatment of individuals at the NWDC.

Separately, we urge you to complete the report on the tragic death of Mergensana Amar. It has been almost a year since this investigation began. It is imperative that the investigation is completed in a timely manner and if possible for the results to be made public.

We appreciate your prompt attention regarding the pattern of abuses and dangerous conditions that have been reported within the NWDC and look forward to discussing the results of your investigations with you.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) today issued the following statement after the death of Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

“The passing of Chairman Elijah Cummings is a profound loss for the nation, Maryland, and those who, like me, were lucky enough to call him both a colleague and friend. 

“Chairman Cummings devoted his life to service, starting as a teen on the front lines of the civil rights movement. Since then, his lifetime of dedication to justice made him an icon in the fight for equality in his local community and nationwide. A passionate advocate, he leaves the legacy of a generation who showed us that we can be better. In his unyielding way, he sought and rallied for the truth that the American people deserve. For that, we are grateful.

“Chairman Cummings was a tremendous leader, but more importantly he was a great human being. I served beside him in Congress for decades, and I had the privilege to work closely with him on the Benghazi Committee. While we served together for years, it didn’t take long for me to realize he was an incredible human being with acute moral clarity. As Chairman of the Committee on Oversight, he wielded immense power, but he did so with grace. The entire Congress will deeply miss his voice, perspective, and grace.

“I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all those whose lives have been affected by his service to our nation.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) today issued the following statement after the House passed a number of bills regarding the recent developments in Hong Kong:

“The critical bills passed by the House of Representatives today will hold leaders in Beijing accountable at a time when Hong Kong’s freedom is under threat. These bills are more important than ever as actions to undermine the freedom of the people of Hong Kong become increasingly violent.

“The United States is committed to supporting the people of Hong Kong, working to ensure their autonomy, and protecting their fundamental rights. Protesters by the tens of thousands in Hong Kong are increasingly being met with expanded police powers and additional restrictions to curb their ability to voice their democratic aspirations. This suppression of basic freedoms and human rights is deeply concerning, and we must remain committed to democratic principles both at home and abroad.

“Leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong must address the legitimate concerns of these protestors and understand the consequences for diminishing the autonomy, human rights, and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.”  

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) today issued the following statement in response to the Trump Administration’s announcement regarding a Turkish military operation in Northern Syria that would put American-supported Kurdish forces near the border in harm’s way.

“The Trump Administration’s recently announced decision to withdraw U.S. military personnel from Northern Syria will harm American-backed Kurdish troops and is a catastrophic mistake. 

“The Kurds have been our strongest ally and closest partner in the fight against ISIS. The Defense Department and State Department negotiated a security mechanism in Northeast Syria that addresses Turkish security concerns and enables our partners in Syria to remain focused on ISIS. Abandoning this agreement with our partners in Northeast Syria sends the wrong signal and will only further destabilize security in Syria, while enhancing ISIS’s ability to rebuild in strength and numbers.

“Despite the Administration’s actions to the contrary, the U.S. relies on allies and partners to ensure its security at home and abroad. Abandoning the Kurds sends the message that the U.S. is an unreliable partner in the fight against terror, with our own President opening the door for our adversaries to take the lead on the global stage against us.”

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