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July 23, 2013

Retired Military Leaders Urge Senate Committee to Close Guantanamo

Washington, DC – On the eve of a Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearing about the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 26 of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders are urging members of the committee to support steps to shutter the facility.

In a letter to subcommittee Chairman Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Ranking Member Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the retired admirals and generals wrote: “Terrorists aim to sow fear, and thereby to cause us to change who we are.  We should demonstrate our moral courage by standing true to our values and laws.  Closing Guantanamo is a necessary step forward in reaffirming our commitments to ourselves and to the world.  We welcome this Committee’s hearing on Guantanamo and urge the Committee to explore how to remove any remaining impediments to closing the Guantanamo chapter in our history.”

The retired military leaders note that the torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo – acts that violated the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and domestic laws – diminished the United States’ moral standing in the world, and as long as the prison remains open, it will be a dark reminder of our past.  They also note  that the ongoing military commissions at Guantanamo [cut: in their many incarnations,] remain illegitimate in the eyes of the world.

“When the presiding judge cannot answer whether the U.S. Constitution applies and the CIA was discovered to have the ability to censor the proceedings, among so many other delays and questions, the commissions are seen as a poor substitute for justice,” they wrote.

In addition, the retired admirals and generals say Guantanamo imperils the United States’ ability to secure cooperation and gain intelligence from American allies abroad.  They note, “Both the military and the intelligence community are only as effective as the information we collect from partners on the ground, who remain less likely to cooperate so long as the United States turns a blind eye to the rule of law.”

With regard to closing the facility, the retired military leaders note that there remains a clear path forward. The 2010 Guantanamo Review Task Force, which included all the relevant security and intelligence agencies, provided a comprehensive framework for progress toward closing Guantanamo.  The admirals and generals note that work should continue unimpeded by statutory transfer restrictions that impede the work of the Defense, State and intelligence agencies and that U.S. security officials and partners abroad can mitigate the risk of any transfers.

The letter sent to the committee ahead of tomorrow’s hearing touches on topics those testifying are anticipated to address. Human Rights First President & CEO Elisa Massimino, Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis (Ret.) and Major General Paul D. Eaton (Ret.) will testify before the subcommittee during its hearing tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Hart XXX. In addition, Major General Michael Lehnert (Ret.), the first commander of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo, will submit testimony for the record detailing his belief that the facility should be closed. Massimino’s testimony will detail Human Rights First’s plan for closing the facility (insert link to final document), an update to the organization’s 2012 blueprint that reflects recent developments and the President’s May 2013 speech at the National Defense University, where he reiterated his pledge to close the facility.

For more information about the retired military leader letter, tomorrow’s hearing or Human Rights First’s plan to close Guantanamo, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.