Obama Administration, Defense Secretary Nominee Should Prioritize Closing Guantanamo
Washington, D.C. – In response to reports that President Obama has selected Ashton Carter as his nominee for Secretary of Defense, Human Rights First urges the new secretary to prioritize closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay by rapidly increasing transfers of detainees cleared for release and completing Periodic Review Board hearings by the end of 2015. President Obama has committed to closing Guantanamo by the end of his second term.
The reports that Carter will be appointed to lead the Pentagon come as Congress prepares to pass its annual defense budget bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2015 Fiscal Year. The bill is expected to carry forward restrictions that make it difficult to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights First urges the president to veto the defense budget bill if it continues to restrict the transfer of detainees.
“Restricting the transfer of detainees isn’t in our national security interest, and it undermines our country’s global commitment to the rule of law. As long as Guantanamo remains open, it will be a stain on our national values and will continue to be a recruitment tool for our enemies,” said Lieutenant General Ed Soyster (Ret.), the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Currently, 142 individuals are detained at Guantanamo. Of those, 73 have been unanimously cleared for transfer by all defense, law enforcement and intelligence agencies—in some cases multiple times, and under both the Bush and Obama administrations. The administration has the authority to transfer these individuals to foreign countries, but current law prohibits their transfer to the United States for any purpose. A provision in Senate Armed Services Committee version of the NDAA would have allowed transfers to the United States in certain circumstances, but it was removed in negotiations with the House.
“National security experts and President Obama agree that closing Guantanamo should be a key priority for the Pentagon,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “With only two years left in this administration, it is critical that the new defense secretary work within his authority to secure the president’s legacy by hastening the transfer of detainees who have been cleared by competent U.S. authorities.”