42 Retired Military Leaders Urge McCain, Reed to Address Guantanamo during Carter Confirmation Hearing
Washington, D.C. – Today, 42 retired flag and general officers urged Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) to press Ashton Carter, President Obama’s nominee to serve as the next Secretary of Defense, about the administration’s plan to close Guantanamo.
“We are only too aware that Guantanamo seems to defy an easy solution, and that the debate over its closure often generates more heat than light,” wrote the retired military officers. “There is an opportunity to elevate the conversation surrounding this issue next month during the hearings for the Honorable Ashton Carter to serve as the next Secretary of Defense. We encourage you to seize this moment. In your roles as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee you should question Mr. Carter about the Obama Administration’s plan to responsibly close the detention facility at Guantanamo. The administration should be expected to share more fully about its specific plans for shuttering Guantanamo, and officials, including Mr. Carter, will be encouraged to do so if Congress presses the issue.”
Earlier this month, President Obama reiterated his commitment to close Guantanamo in his State of the Union address. In his new post, Carter would be tasked with helping the president fulfill that pledge and will be the person charged with signing off on detainee transfers.
Of the remaining Guantanamo detainees, 54 have been cleared by U.S. intelligence and security agencies and should be transferred without delay. The vast majority of the other remaining detainees will face Periodic Review Board hearings — an interagency process currently underway that will assess whether the detainees pose a significant security threat to the United States or should be cleared for transfer.
“It is hard to overstate how damaging the continued existence of the detention facility at Guantanamo has been and continues to be. It is a critical national security issue,” wrote the retired military officers. “Many of us have been told on repeated occasions by our friends in countries around the world that the greatest single action the United States can take to fight terrorism is to close Guantanamo. Repressive governments use it to deflect criticism of their own policies by charging hypocrisy. Violent extremists use it as a recruiting tool, not to mention that detaining prisoners at Guantanamo is now costing the American taxpayers over $3.5 million per detainee per year.”
In their call for Senators McCain and Reed to focus on this issue during next week’s hearing, the retired military officers concluded, “Closing Guantanamo is about reestablishing who we are as a nation. We stand ready to assist in any way on this important issue for our country’s national security.”