Last week I introduced an amendment that would have given the Obama Administration the autonomy needed to decide how best close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and transfer out the remaining prisoners. Seventy-seven of the detainees have been cleared by the intelligence community, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their home countries, for release. Those not cleared for release should be brought to the U.S. for trial and sentencing.
Guantanamo has become a rallying cry for extremists around the world. Until we release those cleared to go home and try the others in a court of law, our national security will continue to be compromised.
Many of the detainees still being held never took up arms against the U.S. and aren’t associated with al-Qaeda. They were not enemy combatants brought in on the field of battle. One study by Seton Hall Law School found 86 percent of detainees were captured in exchange for a bounty, incentivizing local warlords and tribes to turn in their tribal rivals. It’s been determined that 92 percent never committed any hostile acts against the U.S. or our allies.
Some proponents of the facility argue that trying detainees on U.S. soil would endanger national security. This is simply not true. More than 400 defendants charged with crimes related to international terrorism have been convicted by domestic courts; over 300 of these individuals are currently behind bars in 98 federal prisons across the county. None of them have escaped and there have been no attempts to free them.
Nor does the facility make any fiscal sense. Taxpayers are shelling out $2.67 million a year to house a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, compared to $34,046 per inmate at high security federal prisons in the U.S. All told, we’re paying over $446 million each year to keep this “temporary” facility operating indefinitely. At the same time, suitable Department of Defense (DOD) facilities within the U.S. are not exactly bursting at the seams either. There are six DOD facilities where detainees could be held domestically that are currently at only 48 percent capacity.
I will keep fighting to move this issue forward because until we transfer and try these detainees, Guantanamo will continue to hurt our national security. We are at odds with our values and principles as Americans if we continue to claim the authority to do unto others that which we would fervently condemn if done to us.