5-23-2012By Dixon Osburn
Law & Security Program
Yesterday, in an interview on NPR, General Colin Powell said one of his major disappointments of the past four years is that we didn’t “close Guantanamo as I would have hoped.” Closing the Guantanamo Bay facility was one of President Obama’s signature promises of his 2008 campaign, but more than three years after he signed the executive order to close the base it still remains open. General Powell’s statement is a fresh reminder that closing Guantanamo is an issue that has resonance on both sides of the aisle.
In 2008 both President Obama and Sen. John McCain agreed that closing Guantanamo was a national priority. In 2009, President Obama said,
“Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it.”
But since then Congress has imposed restrictions, making it nearly impossible to transfer detainees who have been cleared for release back home or to try those charged with crimes in Article III federal court rather than in the military commission system.
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) now has the opportunity lift the Guantanamo transfer restrictions in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which is under consideration today. It’s time they heed General Powell’s advice.