Washington, D.C. – Thirty-one of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals today sent a letter to President Obama urging him to make good on his executive order to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. They also asked that he set the record straight on torture, a policy he also banned by executive order. Members of the coalition who signed today’s letter stood behind the president on January 22, 2009 – his second day in office – when the orders were signed.
“We appreciate your leadership this past year in recommitting to closing Guantanamo,” wrote the generals and admirals. “Guantanamo does not serve America’s interests. As long as it remains open, Guantanamo will undermine America’s security and status as a nation where human rights and the rule of law matter.”
Today’s letter comes as Congress and the Obama Administration have made progress toward putting Guantanamo on the path to closure. In December, Congress passed its annual defense bill that replaced confusing and cumbersome foreign transfer restrictions that the Obama Administration had said complicated the transfers of detainees to their home or third countries. The administration also transferred three Uighur detainees to Slovakia, ending the detention of men whom the administration says never posed a threat to the United States, but could not be repatriated to China where they faced certain persecution as a Muslim minority in that nation.
Progress toward closing Guantanamo continued this month as the Periodic Review Board (PRB), established by executive order in March 2011, concluded its first case. It ruled that Mahmoud Abdulaziz Al-Mujahid, a Yemeni citizen, no longer poses a significant threat to U.S. national security and is now cleared for transfer. In addition, media and nongovernmental organizations have been invited to observe PRB hearings at the end of the month. Despite this progress, the pace of transfers will have to increase dramatically to achieve closing the prison by the end of President Obama’s second term.
With regard to torture, the retired military leaders urged President Obama to direct his administration, particularly the CIA, to fully cooperate with the Senate intelligence committee to declassify and publicly release the 6000-plus page study that details the post-9/11 CIA rendition, detention, and interrogation program. The report, which was adopted by the committee over a year ago, has not yet come to a vote over declassification as the intelligence committee had been unable to move forward due to lack of cooperation from the administration.
“Former CIA officials who authorized torture continue to defend it in books and film, and public opinion is with them, based on mythology, not fact,” stated the letter. “We believe that upon reviewing the facts the American people will agree that torture was not worth it, and that we as a nation should never return to the dark side.”