Retired Military Leaders Urge Congress to Make Progress on Guantanamo in NDAA

Washington, D.C. – Ahead of this week’s deliberations in the House and Senate over the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), 37 of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals urged Congress to remove remaining restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees. The call came in a letter sent to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee and comes on the heels of last week’s Justice Department report to Congress affirming that national security would not be jeopardized should Guantanamo detainees be transferred to the United States.

“Last year, Congress took the important and common sense step of relaxing restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to their home and third countries, but maintained an unwise and unnecessary ban on transferring detainees to the United States for any purpose,” wrote the generals and admirals. “The Department of Defense, and other U.S. security and intelligence agencies, must have the flexibility to make transfer decisions on a case-by-case basis where the risk of transfer can be mitigated and where transfer would be in our broader national interest. Further, because the military commissions continue to face significant legal problems, federal courts within the United States may in some cases be the only venue in which to prosecute suspected terrorists currently held at Guantanamo.”

This year, consideration of the NDAA will provide an opportunity revisit the current congressionally-approved transfer restrictions. The 2014 NDAA replaced confusing and cumbersome foreign transfer restrictions with a more streamlined approach that allows the Obama Administration to double down on efforts to transfer detainees to their home or third countries. The law maintained a ban on transferring detainees to the United States for any purpose.

Today’s signatories are members of a larger nonpartisan group of retired generals and admirals who work with Human Rights First to speak out against torture and to ensure that U.S. policy reflects a single standard of prisoner treatment consistent with the Geneva Conventions. The group, including members who stood with President Obama in the Oval Office as he signed his executive order banning torture, has voiced strong support for declassification of the Senate intelligence committee’s report. They also worked closely with Senator John McCain in 2005 to pass the Detainee Treatment Act that reinforced the ban on torture and other cruel and degrading treatment, and established the Army Field Manual as the single standard of interrogation for all prisoners in DOD custody. In 2008 they shared their insights with eight presidential candidates from both parties that torture does immense harm to the reputation of the United States, and undermines efforts to combat terrorism.

“The prison at Guantanamo has been a stain on our nation’s values since it opened, and despite the improved conditions there, continues to be a recruiting tool for our enemies and an inspiration for other nations to violate human rights,” concluded the letter. “As you consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year, we urge you to remove the remaining transfer restrictions so that the Guantanamo prison can be closed.”


Published on May 19, 2014


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