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October 30, 2015

House Shouldn’t Override NDAA Veto

Today, Human Rights First signed on to a letter with over a dozen other human rights and civil liberties organizations urging members of the House of Representatives to vote “No” to override the president’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2016. President Obama vetoed the bill for three reasons, one being the onerous transfer restrictions that would make it impossible for him to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba before the end of his presidency.

For years national security experts and retired military leaders have repeatedly explained that the prison at Guantanamo Bay is a direct threat to our national security. President Obama echoed these concerns when he vetoed the bill, saying, “the continued operation of this facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists.” ISIS fighters refer to Guantanamo in their propaganda videos. It costs over $3 million per year to house a detainee at Guantanamo, compared with $78,000 at a federal Supermax facility. Corrections officials have said that prisons in the United States would certainly be able to handle detainees from Guantanamo.

Fifty-two of the remaining 112 Guantanamo detainees have been cleared for transfer by all relevant national security and intelligence agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, and the CIA. There is no reason that the remaining detainees should not be transferred to a facility in the United States so that the prison at Guantanamo can be shuttered.

But the Guantanamo provisions in the NDAA would prohibit transfers to the United States for any reason, and reinstate a modified version of unnecessarily onerous transfer restrictions that a bipartisan majority of Congress replaced over two years ago with more effective measures. The provisions in the current bill make it impossible to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay before President Obama leaves office.

Unless the language on Guantanamo is fixed before the override vote, we urge Representatives to vote “No.” We cannot afford to leave the problem of Guantanamo for a future administration.