69 Senators and Representatives Urge Congress to Lift Restrictions on Transferring Guantánamo Prisoners to the US Mainland

Campaigners calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay walk past Congress on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

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In the long and shameful 20-year history of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, obstacles to the prison’s closure — and to the conditions in which prisoners are held — have been raised persistently, since 2010, after President Obama lost control of Congress in the mid-term elections, by Republican lawmakers, in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This year, as in previous years, concerned Democrats are hoping to overturn these provisions, and below I’m posting a letter they wrote recently to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, but before I get to that it’s worthwhile looking back at the long history of these Congressional obstacles.

In December 2010, when Congress passed the NDAA for 2011, it included, for the first time, three provisions regarding Guantánamo that represented an unacceptable intrusion on the president’s authority: firstly, a ban on the use of funds to bring any Guantánamo prisoners to the US mainland for any reasons, even to face trials; secondly, a ban on the use of funds to purchase or construct any facility on the US mainland for housing prisoners held, at the time, at Guantánamo; and, thirdly, a requirement that, before any prisoner is released, the defense secretary must sign off on the safety of doing so.

The first of these provisions was specifically aimed at derailing the Obama administration’s proposals to try Khalid Shiekh Mohammed (KSM) and the other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks on the US mainland in federal court (and, just to make it clear, it mentioned KSM by name), while the second was designed to prevent the closure of Guantánamo by derailing the administration’s efforts to buy the empty Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois to transfer men from Guantánamo so that the prison could be closed. The third provision, meanwhile, was meant to make the release of prisoners unpalatable, as any post-release problems would become the responsibility of the defense secretary.

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24 Senators Send a Letter to President Biden Urging Him to Close Guantánamo

Campaigners calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the prison’s opening (Photo: Susan Melkisethian via Flickr).

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

In the long struggle to try to secure the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, there has rarely been adequate support from lawmakers, so it was extremely reassuring, on April 16, to see that 24 Democratic Senators — almost half of the Democrats in the Senate — have written a letter to President Biden urging him to close the prison once and for all.

Led by Senate Majority Whip and Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, and including Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the 24 Senators not only urged President Biden to close the prison, but also provided detailed proposals for how that can be achieved.

These proposals involve re-establishing the Office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure at the State Department, which we discussed in an article just last week, and also appointing a “senior White House official” to be “accountable for the closure process.”

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On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, It’s Time for Someone to Leak the Whole of the US Senate Torture Report

The cover of a version of the executive summary of the Senate torture report, made publicly available in December 2014.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.





 

Today is an important day — 30 years since the entry into force of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and 20 years since the establishment, on that anniversary, of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, and to mark the occasion it would be wonderful if someone in the huge, sprawling organization that is the United States government would release — leak, if you prefer — the full Senate Intelligence Committee Study on CIA Detention and Interrogation Program.

The report took five years to compile, contains 6,700 pages, and cost $40m, and it was approved for publication by the committee members on December 13, 2012, by nine votes to six, although it was not until December 9, 2014 that a partly-redacted 525-page document — the executive summary and certain key findings — was released. See Senator Dianne Feinstein’s page on the report for all the publicly available documents.

The executive summary was a profoundly shocking document, despite the redactions, and despite consisting of less than one-tenth of the total, as I explained at the time, when I wrote that the report found that: Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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