Ash Carter Recommits Administration to Closing Guantanamo
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised Secretary of Defense Ash Carter for reiterating his and the administration’s commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay by the end of President Obama’s second term in office. At a press conference at the Pentagon today, Carter stressed that he will work within the law to transfer those detainees who have already been cleared by relevant agencies, and with the administration to develop a plan for the remaining detainees who are not eligible for transfer.
“Secretary Carter, President Obama, and national security experts all agree that keeping Guantanamo open makes Americans more, not less safe,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “Now the administration needs to act quickly to finish the job before the conclusion of the president’s second term in office. This national security problem is not going to get better with time.”
Carter indicated today that a number of detainees may be moved to the United States for continued detention. Human Rights First notes that both the military and the Bureau of Prisons have safely detained very dangerous criminals, including terrorists and mass murderers, and are well-equipped to continue to do so. Men responsible for the East Africa bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, including high-ranking al Qaeda officials, as well as those responsible for the first World Trade Center attacks are all in federal prison, most sentenced to life. However, the organization cautions that law-of-war detention must be temporary.
The administration is slated to come out with a detailed plan for closing Guantanamo in the coming weeks. Any plan to shutter the facility should include: expedited transfers of cleared detainees; an increased pace of Periodic Review Board hearings, which determine whether a detainee still poses a threat to the United States or is cleared for transfer; and stronger engagement with Congress, including vetoing any legislation that prevents Guantanamo from being closed.
Lee Wolosky, the new State Department envoy in charge of closing Guantanamo, has reportedly secured deals with a dozen countries to accept nearly half of the 52 cleared Guantanamo detainees. All of those 52 cleared detainees have been imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than 12 years, and many were approved to be transferred by both the Bush and Obama Administrations. These transfers should proceed without delay.
“Secretary Carter said all the right things today,” noted Wala. “But words aren’t enough. The Obama Administration needs to jump-start its efforts to close Guantanamo with concrete action.”