White House Threatens Veto for Intel Bill over Guantanamo Provisions
Since 2009, the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has included provisions restricting transfers of detainees out of Guantanamo. This year Congress has used other spending bills to try to to ban funds from being used to transfer Guantanamo detainees. And the president isn’t happy about it.
Today, the White House threatened to veto the Intelligence Authorization bill, which passed the House Intelligence Committee on June 4, 2015. First on the list of grievances: the Guantanamo detainee provisions.
The Guantanamo provisions in the Intelligence Authorization bill prevent the administration from using funds to transfer detainees to the United States for any reason—including trial in federal courts. Yet federal trials have been far more successful at prosecuting terrorism offences than Guantanamo military commissions, which have had half of its convictions overturned on appeal.
The bill also includes the nonsensical ban on transfers to IRS-defined “combat zones”: places where troops “are engaging or have engaged in combat.” This includes countries like Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have successfully resettled Guantanamo detainees and where war has long since ended.
In a wise move, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, proposed an amendment that would strike these provisions from the Intelligence Authorization bill.
Guantanamo serves as a recruiting tool for terrorist groups and makes the United States less safe. As Major General Michael Lehnert (Ret.), first commanding officer of the Guantanamo detention facility, said in a letter to Congress last month: “Keeping the prison open undermines American laws and values, and it harms our national security. This is not a partisan issue. It is an American issue.”
General Lehnert is a member of a non-partisan coalition of over 60 of our nation’s most decorated retired admirals and generals. This coalition calls for Guantanamo’s closure as a matter of national security.
Representatives should heed the advice of these military leaders and vote in favor of Rep. Schiff’s amendment.