In Testimony, Former General Counsel of the Navy Urges Congress to Close Guantanamo
Washington, D.C.—In testimony today before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, former General Counsel of the Navy Alberto Mora will urge members of Congress to shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as its closure would advance the national security interests of the United States. Mora’s testimony will be delivered before the Subcommittee on National Security this afternoon at its hearing on “Guantanamo Bay: The Remaining Detainees.”
“While one can understand the reasons why Guantanamo was initially chosen as a detention facility for high-level detainees captured in the War on Terror, those reasons no longer apply, circumstances have changed, better alternatives have emerged, and the high costs of Guantanamo are now fully visible and should be regarded as untenable,” said Alberto Mora in his testimony. “To keep the Guantanamo detention facility open today would be contrary to our nation’s financial, administrative, military, foreign policy, and national security interests. Other than for reasons of inertia, there is no need to keep the facility open – but there are pressing reasons to close it.”
Today’s hearing comes as Congress debates provisions in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would make it nearly impossible for President Obama to close the detention facility by the end of his term in office.
House and Senate versions of the NDAA include language that would make it impossible for President Obama to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, despite the fact that national security leaders from across the political spectrum have urged the president and Congress to make shuttering this facility a top priority. Both the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and House versions of the NDAA would extend unnecessary bans on transferring detainees to the United States until after President Obama leaves office. The bills also extend country-specific transfer bans, with the SASC version expanding the number of prohibited locations. Both bills include cumbersome overseas transfer restrictions that make it more difficult, but not impossible, for the administration to transfer detainees.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon released the administration’s plan for closing Guantanamo, which includes the transfer of detainees at Guantanamo who have been cleared for transfer by defense, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. It also mandates expedited review, pursuant to administrative Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings, of the remaining detainees who are not facing trial to determine if they can be cleared for transfer. The remaining detainees who will not be transferred in the near term—a number unlikely to exceed 60— would be relocated to one of 13 stateside detention facilities, pending Congressional approval. This would result in annual operating savings of up to $85 million compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. There are currently 80 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, about $5.5 million per detainee.
“Guantanamo has damaged us with our friends and has constituted a strategic gift to our enemies. It is not an overstatement to say that Guantanamo has seriously undermined our national security and contributed to a loss of American lives overseas,” stated Mora.
Alberto Mora is in Washington, D.C. and available to discuss his testimony before Congress, as well as the National Defense Authorization Act as it relates to Guantanamo.