New Gitmo Bill Would Stop All Detainee Transfers Based on Outdated, Unreliable Assessments
Yesterday, Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte introduced a bill designed to stop the transfer or release of Guantanamo detainees, even those who have been cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations and all relevant governmental agencies. The bill would ignore more recent, nuanced assessments in favor of outdated, unreliable ones made before 2010.
The bill would bar transfer of any Guantanamo detainee who “is currently or ever has been determined or assessed by Joint Task Force Guantanamo to be a high-risk or medium-risk threat to the United States, its interests, or its allies.” This would effectively stop transfers of all detainees, based solely on outdated reports by Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), some of which are deeply flawed, simplistic, and often more than a decade old.
When the documents were released by Wikileaks in 2011, it became clear that much of the analysis was based on incomplete or inaccurate information, which resulted in sometimes bizarre conclusions in the threat classification of detainees. In these files, all of the current Guantanamo detainees were assessed by JTF-GTMO to be “high” or “medium” risk, with the exception of two, whose files were not published by Wikileaks.
There is currently a group of 54 Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for transfer out of the prison by all relevant government agencies (the Director of National Intelligence, Defense Department, State Department, etc.) and approved by the Secretary of Defense. Some of these detainees have been cleared for release by multiple administrations, and some have been in prison without charge or trial for over a decade.
Meanwhile, through the Periodic Review Board (PRB) process begun last year, the Obama Administration is taking another look at 35 detainees slated to stay in prison indefinitely without charge or trial and the . These PRB reviews dropped the “high,” “medium,” or “low” risk classification, in favor of more nuanced and accurate criteria. The PRB system has so far completed 9 detainee reviews, with six of the reviews concluding that the detainee could be released.
It apparently doesn’t matter that the Obama Administration has instituted robust review processes and nearly every national security leader has supported closing the prison at Guantanamo. The new bill would effectively ignore all of this and stop all transfers, even if the decisions to transfer detainees were made unanimously by every relevant government agency and approved by the Secretary of Defense. And it would be doing this based purely on unreliable, outdated information.
While the bill’s sponsors may claim it is about preventing recidivism, in reality it’s just another unnecessary congressional roadblock to the facility’s closure. One of the officers who helped found the prison, now-retired Major General Michael Lehnert, wrote, the prison “is a symbol for many around the world of torture, injustice, and illegitimacy.” Shuttering the prison is of paramount importance to U.S. national security.