Retired Generals Urge Senate to Reject Bill Blocking Guantanamo Closure
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First is urging members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to reject legislation during today’s markup that would include a blanket ban on transferring detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay 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 organization notes that for many years, as well as in recent letters to Congress, military leaders and other national security experts have confirmed that the continued operation of the detention center is a threat to national security and that efforts to keep it open are misguided.
Retired Gen. Michael Lehnert, the first commander at Guantanamo Bay, expressed his concern with the proposed legislation in a letter to senators sent earlier this week. “Perhaps rather than introducing legislation to keep Guantanamo open, national security concerns are better addressed with legislation that requires a well-crafted plan that addresses release of previously cleared detainees and continued detention of those detainees that still present a risk to our national security,” he wrote.
The legislation that will be examined today was introduced by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ); a companion version was introduced in the House by Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN02). In addition to the blanket ban on any detainees who had been deemed “medium” or “high” risk, the bill would also ban transfers of detainees to Yemen, and reinstate excessively burdensome transfer certification requirements that could prevent the transfer of detainees to any country in which there has been a prior confirmed case of “recidivism.”
Retired Generals Joseph P. Hoar and Charles C. Krulak urged Vicky Hartzler (R-MO4) and Jackie Speier (D-CA14), chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Oversight Subcommittee, to consider legislation to close Guantanamo. “We write to you now to urge you to use the upcoming hearings… to work with your colleagues on the House Armed Service Committee to partner with the administration to further refine the plan and to energize the efforts to close Guantanamo,” wrote the generals. “Guantanamo does not serve America’s interests. We have consistently articulated how damaging the existence of the detention facility at Guantanamo has been and continues to be. It complicates our diplomacy with allies, especially with regard to counter-terrorism operations.”
Of the remaining Guantanamo detainees, 54 have been cleared by U.S. intelligence and security agencies and should be transferred without delay. The vast majority of the other remaining detainees will face Periodic Review Board hearings — an interagency process currently underway that will assess whether the detainees pose a significant security threat to the United States or should be cleared for transfer.