Retired Generals and Admirals Urge Congress to Work with Administration to Close Guantanamo

Washington, D.C.Thirty-six retired generals and admirals of the U.S. Armed Forces today sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, urging them to carefully consider the Obama Administration’s plan to close Guantanamo, and to work with the president to shutter the detention facility. The letter comes one week after the Pentagon released a plan to Congress detailing how the administration intends to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

“As the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Service Committees, yours is a solemn responsibility. We write to encourage you to use this plan as a foundation to come together and find a path to finally shutter the detention facility,” wrote the generals and admirals. “This should not be a political issue.”

The administration’s plan includes the accelerated 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 Period Review Board (PRB) hearings, of those 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 not to exceed 60, according to the plan—will be relocated to one of thirteen stateside detention facilities, pending Congressional approval. This will result in annual operating savings of up to $180 million compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. The administration’s plan is in line with recommendations made in Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo.”

Signatories of today’s letter are members of a larger group of nonpartisan retired military leaders who have long-advocated closing Guantanamo. Many of them stood behind President Obama on his second day in office in 2009 as he signed the executive order to close Guantanamo within one year.

In January the Obama Administration transferred 16 detainees out of Guantanamo, a move that brought the detention facility’s population below 100 for the first time since it opened in January 2002. Thirty-five of the detainees still held at Guantanamo Bay have already been cleared for transfer by all national security and intelligence agencies of the U.S. government. Those transfers need to accelerate in order for the president to achieve his goal of closing the prison. Forty-two are eligible for PRB review.  Human Rights First notes that PRB reviews should have been completed for every eligible detainee over three years ago.

“Closing Guantanamo will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do, and we call on you to work together to accomplish it. We take heart that our nation has elected people who will exercise their conscientious judgment, but who will not allow politics to obscure courage,” wrote the generals and admirals. “Compromise and working together toward the common good is the true exercise of leadership and courage.”


Published on March 1, 2016


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