Congress Should Help Close Guantanamo, Not Block Detainee Transfers

A new bill introduced by Senate Republicans poses unnecessary restrictions on detainee transfers from the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Periodic Review Boards and Guantanamo Detainee Taskforce—interagency administrative processes—already set a very high bar to clear a prisoner for release, as all representatives from our national security agencies must unanimously agree that a detainee doesn’t pose a continued threat to the United States.

The bill purportedly aims to reduce recidivism, as many pundits and politicians claim 30% of released detainees “return to the fight.” While recidivism is a legitimate concern, this number is bunk. The accurate statistic for detainees released during the Obama administration suspected or confirmed as reengaging in insurgent activity is 6.7%, according to the Director of National Intelligence. Over 90% of detainees released under the Obama administration’s revamped transfer review procedures are not even suspected of engaging in any terrorist activity.

As Major General Michael Lenhert, Ret., the first commander of the Guantanamo detention camp, writes in Politico:

“We can and must manage this risk through security assurances, monitoring, rehabilitation, and other reasonable measures. The risks associated with keeping Guantanamo open are harder to mitigate, and the harm will be far more lasting.”

The prison remains a stain on our nation’s reputation and a recruiting tool for terrorists around the world, not to mention being wildly expensive. Congress should be helping the administration to close it, while taking all due precautions, instead of throwing up more roadblocks.

For more Gitmo myth busting, check out our fact sheet, “Guantanamo Recidivism Concerns are Overblown,” and blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo.”


Published on January 14, 2015


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