Q&A: The Why and How on Closing Guantanamo
Q: Why do we need to close Guantanamo?
A: Key military and intelligence experts say Guantanamo is risk to US national security. Alberto Mora, Former General Counsel of the Navy, testified that "There are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo." Admiral Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, elaborated: "I agree with the President that the detention center at Guantanamo has become a damaging symbol to the world and that it must be closed. It is a rallying cry for terrorist recruitment and harmful to our national security, so closing it is important for our national security."
Q: Are regular federal courts the appropriate forum to try Guantanamo detainees suspected of crimes of terrorism and war crimes?
A: Yes, our federal courts have proven that they are up to the task. In a study of 119 terrorism cases with 289 defendants, filed since 2001, Human Rights First found that of the 214 defendants whose cases were resolved as of June 2, 2009, 195 were convicted either by verdict or by a guilty plea.
Since Jan. 1, 2009, more than 30 individuals charged with terrorism violations have been successfully prosecuted and/or sentenced in federal courts nationwide. The War Crimes Act also explicitly gives federal courts jurisdiction to try war crimes.
Q: Will regular courts be able to protect American secrets?
A: U.S. federal courts are fully equipped to protect sensitive information concerning national security. The Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) establishes a detailed set of procedures designed to balance the defendant's right to a fair trial with the need to protect sensitive evidence that could endanger national security if disclosed. In many terrorism cases, U.S. courts have applied CIPA to successfully protect U.S. national security not only in espionage prosecutions but in terrorism prosecutions as well. HRF has also been unable to identify a single instance in which CIPA was invoked and there was a substantial leak of sensitive information as a result of a terrorism prosecution in federal court. 
Q: How do we know that U.S. federal jails and prisons are equipped to handle Guantanamo detainees brought to the United States for prosecution?
A: There are currently 216 international terrorists, and 139 domestic terrorists – a total of 355 – being held in U.S. prisons. No international terrorist has ever escaped from any part of the federal prison system.
The Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado (ADX Florence), sometimes called the "Alcatraz of the Rockies," holds 33 international terrorists. Some of the world's worst terrorists have been held there, including:
Ramzi Yousef, Mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
Zacharias Moussaoui, 9/11 Conspirator.
Wahid el-Hage, Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, Mohammed Rashed al-Owhali, and Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, East African embassy bombing perpetrators.
Richard C. Reid, "Shoe Bomber" convicted for trying to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic with explosives in his shoe.
Timothy McVeigh, Convicted of killing 168 people in the Oklahoma City Bombing.
Terry Nichols, Oklahoma City bombing conspirator.
Muhammad Salameh. 1993 World Trade Center bombing perpetrator. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.
The American Correctional Association Delegate Assembly adopted a resolution on Aug. 12, 2009, at the Congress of Correction in Nashville, Tennessee, including this forceful language: "The American Correctional Association does hereby assure Congress and our elected leaders that they can have every reasonable expectation that public safety would be secure and that there would be no danger or imminent threat to the American people should they decide to transfer detainees from foreign countries to federal, state or military facilities in the United States."
Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Harley Lappin, testified about procedures in place to prevent the "radicalization" of prisoners. "We've put procedures in place, especially for the international terrorists that we currently house, to reduce the likelihood that "radicalization' will occur. And that's through more restrictive and controlled management of those particular inmates."
Q: Aren't there some detainees in Guantanamo who cannot be tried but who the United States needs to continue to detain?
A: As long as Guantanamo prisoners remain in limbo in U.S. custody without being charged, subject to unending review, we will have failed to close the door on the Guantanamo legacy. The administration is working to resolve the cases of all remaining Guantanamo detainees, and it needs to continue this work until the number of unresolved cases is down to zero.
 Nomination of Admiral Dennis Blair to be Director of National Intelligence: Hearing before S. Comm. on Intelligence, 109th Cong. 7 (Jan. 22, 2009) (statement of Admiral Dennis Blair USN (Ret.)).
 HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, IN PURSUIT OF JUSTICE: PROSECUTING TERRORISM CASES IN THE FEDERAL COURTS (2009), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/090723-LS-in-pursuit-justice-09-update.pdf.
 Human Rights First, Prosecuting Terrorism, http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/our-work/law-and-security/right-to-remedy/prosecute/.
 War Crimes Act of 1996, Pub L. No. 104-192, 110 Stat. 2104 (Aug. 21, 1996).
 IN PURSUIT OF JUSTICE, available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/090723-LS-in-pursuit-justice-09-update.pdf.
 Press Release, Department of Justice, Fact Sheet: Prosecuting and Detaining Terror Suspects in the U.S. Criminal Justice System (June 9, 2009) available at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2009/June/09-ag-564.html
 Solome Moore, Doubts on Handling Terror Detainees End at U.S. Prison Gates, N.Y.Times, June 16, 2009 available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/us/17victorville.html?_r=2.
 Judges Uphold Convictions in '93 Bombing, N.Y. TIMES, Apr. 5, 2003, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/05/nyregion/judges-uphold-convictions-in-93-bombing.html.
 Assoc. Press, Moussaoui is Delivered to Prison in Colorado, N.Y. TIMES, May 14, 2006,available at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/14/us/14moussaoui.html?scp=1&sq=richard%20reid%20florence&st=cse.
 Benjamin Weiser, A Nation Challenged: The Embassy Plot; Prison Switch for Terrorists in Bombings, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 25, 2001, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/25/nyregion/a-nation-challenged-the-embassy-plot-prison-switch-for-terrorists-in-bombings.html.
 Pam Belluk, Unrepentant Shoe Bomber Is Given a Life Sentence For Trying to Blow Up Jet, N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 31, 2003.
 Editorial, History and Timothy McVeigh, N.Y. TIMES, June 11, 2001, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/11/opinion/history-and-timothy-mcveigh.html.
 Brian Bennett, Where Moussaoui is Likely to Spend Life in Prison, TIME, May 4, 2006, available at http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1191184,00.html.
 Richard Bernstein, Explosion at the Twin Towers; 4 are Convicted in Bombing at the World Trade Center that Killed 6, Stunned U.S., N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 5, 1994, available at http://www.nytimes.com/1994/03/05/nyregion/explosion-twin-towers-4-are-convicted-bombing-world-trade-center-that-killed-6.html.
 Dick Foster, Supermax Gets Kaczynski; Unabomber Joins other Notorious Bombers at U.S. Prison in Florence, Rocky Mountain News, May 6, 1998.
 Testimony of Harley Lappin, Director, Bureau of Prisons, House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, July 21, 2009, CQ Transcript.