Wednesday, April 14, 2010

By: Anonymous

For over eight years, the U.S. has been embattled in a war on terror. Since then, almost 800 detainees have passed through the gates at Guantánamo Bay. On his third day in office, President Obama signed an Executive Order that established a responsible date for closing the detention facilities at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base. Three months ago that date passed; but the urgency of closing the facility remains.

Closing Guantánamo would immediately increase the United States’ long-term prospects for safety and security. Our enemies could no longer exploit the camp as a recruiting tool to inspire hatred and violence against our troops and citizens. Some doubt the link between the symbolism of U.S. prisons like Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib and terrorism, however, reports from troops in the field suggest otherwise. Major Matthew Alexander, whose team of interrogators obtained the information necessary to locate and capture the head of al Qaeda-in-Iraq, believes that “the reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa’ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, and not Islamic ideology.”

Furthermore, closing Guantánamo will enhance our credibility with our allies throughout the developed world.
The purpose of detaining these prisoners, after all, is to enhance this nation’s safety and security, and our practices at Guantánamo have strained relationships with vital allies. Eleven British citizens formerly held at Guantánamo claim that British Government was complicit in allowing them to be tortured. Closing the prison will generate the necessary goodwill to effectively foster vital counterterrorism cooperation with our allies, and better enable the United States to combat the threats we face.

In order to close Guantánamo, the Administration has requested $350 million to purchase the Thomson Correction Center in Illinois to serve as a replacement facility. The inmates that are judged too dangerous to release, and cannot be effectively prosecuted, would be relocated to the Thomson facility. The remaining detainees would be repatriated or transferred to other countries for release. Opponents of this plan argue that a domestically located facility poses too great a security risk; that it would invite an attack from al Qaeda or another terrorist organization. These concerns, while important, are overstated. Our domestic prison system has shown its capability to hold terrorists before, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons it held over 200 international terrorists as of May 19th of last year.

But last week, in an action that speaks to the political difficulties of closing Guantánamo, a coalition of civil liberties advocates, including the ACLU and Amnesty International, signed a letter opposing the federal purchase of the Thomson facility. These same groups have criticized the conditions of confinement at Guantánamo, yet stand in the way of its closure. We have seen a marked improvement in the conditions at Guantánamo over the past three years, as new facilities have been brought on line, and establishing Camp Justice has provided capacity for independent oversight and access for reporters, lawyers and human rights advocates. Moving the detainees to the U.S. mainland will provide for increased scrutiny and oversight.

The civil liberties advocates maintain that no change is justified if the practice of indefinite detention will be continued. But their ideals are premised on the existence of a world devoid of the very real security threats we face. Indefinite detention is a necessary and useful tool that the Administration can use to keep American citizens safe. Opposing the proposed transfer is a simple case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

By bringing the detainees onto American soil, this Administration will end the Constitutional loophole that the former Administration exploited so regularly. We will see domestic benefits in the form of increased oversight and transparency and positive international consequences by undoing a symbol of extralegal disregard for human rights, and removing an effective recruitment tool of our enemies.

The previous Administration ignored this choice for the last eight years, but President Obama is strong enough to make it.

This D&D Guest has elected to remain anonymous due to their employment status.  This Guest has worked for several government agencies and the U.S. Congress.


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