Former Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel slammed the Biden Pentagon for blaming the Trump administration for a plan to vaccinate Guantanamo Bay detainees that garnered huge backlash from the public and Republican lawmakers after it was disclosed last week.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that the plan to vaccinate the detainees was “underway” before President Joe Biden took office.
“The vaccination plan underway was underway before President Biden took office, before Secretary Austin took office. That’s not to impugn that decision making process at all,” Kirby said. “That scheme was already under way and being executed.”
Patel rejected the suggestion that the plan to vaccinate detainees was the Trump administration’s fault.
“That’s total B.S. Under no circumstances were we giving vaccines to terrorists. That’s all Biden,” Patel told Breitbart News. “Yes, the vaccine plan was underway. Trump secured the vaccine and distribution. Biden is the one allowing GTMO to get it.”
Kash, who also served as deputy assistant to former President Donald Trump, added, “And even if what they are saying were true, they are now in power and could easily cancel doses to GTMO. They don’t want to. They want terrorists to get the vaccine before town elders and front line workers.”
According to the New York Times, a Biden appointee signed a memo that authorized the vaccination of the detainees on January 27, 2021. The Times reported:
Dr. Terry Adirim, the Pentagon’s principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, signed a memo on Wednesday that authorized the vaccination of the detainees. She is a Biden administration appointee who has been serving as a senior health official at the Defense Department since July 2016.
The New York Post confirmed it was a Biden appointee who signed the memo:
The order was signed on Jan. 27 by Terry Adirim, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs who was sworn in as a Biden appointee on Inauguration Day, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed.
After the Times‘ Carol Rosenberg first reported Friday that the 40 detainees would be given the option to be vaccinated this week, members of the public and Republican lawmakers expressed outrage that suspected terrorists would get the vaccine before millions of Americans.
Kirby announced in a tweet the next day that the plan to vaccinate the detainees was paused.
“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,” he tweeted Saturday.
It is not yet clear for how long that plan would be paused and if the detainees will still be offered the vaccine before millions of other Americans are able to receive it.
There are approximately 6,000 residents at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo, where the detention facility is located. According to a press release updated on February 2, 2021, the vaccine is available for those in Phase 1a and 1b, which includes healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers.
One New York assemblyman wrote to Adirim, imploring her to use available vaccines on his districts’ seniors and first responders instead of on “terrorists and Gitmo prisoners”:
— Colin Schmitt (@colinschmitt) January 30, 2021
A military trial that was slated to begin at the naval base on February 22, 2021, was postponed, but a spokesperson said that was unrelated to the recent pause in the plan to vaccinate detainees.
It is not the first time an administration has come under hot water for planning to vaccinate detainees before Americans.
In November 2009, the Obama administration came under fire after a spokeswoman for the base suggested that detainees would be a high priority for receiving a vaccine for the H1N1 virus.
A Pentagon spokesman has to clarify, “There is a limited supply of the H1N1 vaccine and DoD has prioritized how it will be delivered. … The detainee population is toward the bottom of the list.”