Proposed Guantanamo Restriction Weakens National Security, Runs Counter to Necessary Closure
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First said today that a proposed bill restricting the transfer of Guantanamo detainees out of the prison would be a major step backward for the United States and national security. The bill, proposed by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ), includes a blanket ban on transferring detainees who, at any point, were considered a “medium” or “high” risk threat by the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo, regardless of their current threat level. The bill would also ban transfers of detainees to Yemen, and reinstate unwise transfer certification requirements that could prevent the transfer of detainees to any country in which there has been a prior confirmed case of “recidivism.”
“This is an unfortunate and unhelpful proposal,” said retired Major General Michael Lehnert (ret.), the first commander at Guantanamo Bay, who supports shuttering the facility. “Every transfer out of Guantanamo is thoroughly vetted and unanimously agreed to by all of our national security agencies and departments, and that’s as it should be. Congress should work with president Obama to help to close Guantanamo. As I and more than 50 retired generals and admirals have said repeatedly, along with national security leaders across the political spectrum, the detention facility at Guantanamo is a blight on our history and must be closed.”
Today’s legislation comes amid news reports indicating that next week the Obama Administration plans to transfer five Yemeni detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a resettlement country that is yet to be named. The expected transfers would bring the number of detainees at the facility down to 122.
Most of the other remaining detainees will face Periodic Review Board hearings—an interagency process that’s currently underway—that will assess whether the each detainee poses a significant security threat to the United States or should be cleared for transfer. Human Rights First calls on the administration to complete all of the Periodic Review Board hearings by the end of 2015.
“President Obama and the vast majority of national security experts have recognized that closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center is critical to improving U.S. national security, and it’s a shame that for political reasons, members of Congress seek to stand in the way of that,” said Human Rights First Daphne Eviatar “The president should continue to make every effort to transfer detainees out of the Guantanamo facility, and should veto any legislation he receives that attempts to block that important effort.”