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Holes in GOP Guantánamo Report Only Highlight the True Problems

Zachary Katznelson,
Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project
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February 9, 2012

The republicans on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations released a report today rehashing old accusations about Guantánamo prisoner “recidivism.” The report criticizes the Bush and Obama administrations for their release decisions and repeats without question or adequate verification claims that 27 percent of prisoners released from Guantánamo are either confirmed or suspected to have “reengaged in terrorist activities.” Not a single democrat signed on to the report, which is unusual for this subcommittee when it comes to national security issues, and actually the democrats released a dissent.

Unfortunately, the report is long on accusations but short on facts. Few cases are discussed and no evaluation is done of the evidence supposedly underpinning its claims, despite repeated showings that recidivism claims and Guantánamo-related intelligence in general are deeply flawed. Nowhere in the report is the fact that the vast majority of men released are confirmed to be working peacefully to rebuild their lives, despite years of abuse and incarceration without charge or trial. Nor does the report mention the agreement among defense and intelligence officials that closing Guantánamo is a security imperative. As Washington Congressman Adam Smith, the ranking democrat on the Armed Services Committee, noted, “[T]he detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is a black eye for our nation abroad, serving as a powerful recruiting tool for terrorists.”

Even under the skewed, partial picture presented by the report, it is clear that the Obama administration has done a significantly better job arranging safe transfers from Guantánamo than its predecessor. The current administration has released people only upon the unanimous decision of our military, intelligence services and justice department. We do not need further congressional interference in transfer decisions. We need to listen to our security experts. The administration should immediately release cleared Guantánamo prisoners and put everyone else on trial, if there is evidence to prosecute. Indefinite detention is not acceptable.

As this debate continues, we must remember that every person in Guantánamo is an individual and should be judged on their own merits. Anything less defies our American tradition of individual, not collective justice.

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