Americans 'died because of' released Gitmo detainees: Pentagon official

President Obama's Last Stand
President Obama's Last Stand

Americans "have died because of" detainees released from the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, a Defense Department official said Wednesday.

The comments, from special envoy Paul Lewis, came during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, and may provide more fuel for critics of President Obama's long-anticipated plan to shutter the prison, which he announced last month.

During the hearing, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., asked Lewis how many people had died because of "terrorists who went back to their terrorist activity."

When Lewis responded that he would prefer to discuss the matter in a "classified setting," Rohrabacher pressed him, asking if it was "over 10."

"Sir, what I can tell you is unfortunately there have been Americans that have died because of Gitmo detainees," Lewis said.

See images of Guantanamo Bay:

Lewis did not provide additional details.

When Rohrabacher asked "how many people in Brussels or Paris have to die" before the administration decides to keep detainees "under control" at the facility, Lewis responded: "We don't want anyone to die because we transfer detainees. However, it is the best judgment and the considered judgment of this administration and the previous that the risk of keeping Gitmo open is outweighed, that we should close Gitmo."

While Obama has described the prison as "contrary to our values," both chambers of Congress have passed laws banning detainees from being moved to the U.S., and some Republican lawmakers were quick to ridicule his plan last month.

"President Obama seems to be captured on one matter by one campaign promise he made in 2008," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.