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Democratic senators call for the closing of Guantanamo

July 30, 2013

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Photo by Marion Doss, posted at Flickr, http://bit.ly/18HsDJk

Published at The Capital Post, http://thecapitalpost.com/democratic-senators-call-closing-guantanamo-p-24736.html

By Annette Birch

Democratic senators called for the closing of Guantanamo which they argued is both inhumane and too expensive. Sen. Dick Durban (D-Ill.) asserted at a hearing on July 23rd before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee that the congressional restrictions imposed on the president constitute the greatest obstacles to closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

“It is time to lift those restrictions,” Sen. Durban said.

However, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) questioned whether there was any other facility that could hold the prisoners.

“Unless I am presented with a good plan I cannot see how it is responsible to send these terrorists home where they will commit more terrorist acts,” he said. He pointed to a Jan. 2013 report from the director of National Intelligence stating that 28 percent of former Guantanamo detainees when released engage in terrorism.

During the eleven years Guantanamo has existed, several presidents have vowed that they would shut down the facility if the prisoners could be tried and held elsewhere. In February 2009, George Bush stated to CBS that he would like to close Guantanamo but was waiting for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether inmates can face military tribunals. During his presidential campaign in 2012, Barack Obama promised that he would close Guantanamo. However, the president’s power was limited, when Congress in December last year past theNational Defense Authorization Act, restricting detainee transfers from Guantanamo. Today, there are 166 inmates at Guantanamo Bay; of these 86 have been cleared for transfer, 46 are being held without trial, while 28 are considered to be too dangerous to ever stand trial. The federal government is spending around $900,000 per year on each prisoner according to an article in the Huffington Post on May 3. By comparison, a prisoner in a super-maximum security prison in the United States costs $60,000 to $70,000 at most per prisoner.

Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), who has just visited Guantanamo, called for the closing of Guantanamo and transfer of the prisoners to high secure facilities in the United States.

“I saw the people there. It is a very different picture than people imagine,” she said referring to the dismal state of the detainees.

Lieutenant Joshua Fryday, who represented a 22-year-old Afghan citizen detained without trial for 10 years at Guantanamo, found that the indefinite detention violated his client’s constitutionally guaranteed rights.

“It is at odds with our oldest principles. We can do better than indefinite detention,” he said. He underscored that the U.S. criminal system was capable of trying terrorists. Since 9/11 500 terrorists have been tried in the United States, while only six persons have been tried on Guantanamo. Sen. Durbin stated that several terrorists who had been tried and found guilty were already held in high secure prisons in Illinois. Sen. Cruz did not believe it was safe for the American people to detain inmates of Guantanamo in prisons on the U.S. mainland.

While the Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, the same division along party lines was evident from the testimony of two Congressmen from the Republican dominated House of Representatives. While Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wa.) believed that the prisoners should be tried and, if found guilty, transferred to high secure prisons in the United States, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Ks.) stated that Guantanamo was necessary for these terrorists as the United States is still at war with Al-Qaeda.

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