President Obama should press on with Guantánamo closure and repatriate innocent men cleared for release

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The Hill Blog - January 4, 2010
By Leili Kashani, CCR

After the Flight 253 attack, does it still make sense to close Guantanamo?

It is crucial to remember that the vast majority of the men at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place, and that over 550 have been released and are peacefully rebuilding their lives. Most of the nearly 800 men who were brought to Guantánamo were not captured by the American military on any battlefield, but seized in broad sweeps during the chaos of the Afghan war or in other locations around the world and sold to the U.S. in exchange for substantial bounties. We know from the military’s own records that most of the detainees at Guantánamo have no link to terrorism.

CCR has always maintained that the men at Guantánamo should either be charged with a crime or released. Today, more than half of the men who remain at Guantánamo have been cleared for release after scrutiny by the Obama Administration’s year-old Guantánamo Review Task Force. It is therefore particularly troubling that several senators have used this occasion for political ends and pressed President Obama to stop transfers of all Yemenis, citing a report that alleges two men formerly detained at Guantánamo joined a group in Yemen which claims responsibility for plotting the failed airplane bombing.

Halting the repatriation of Yemeni men cleared by the Task Force after months of careful review is unconscionable. It will also effectively prevent any meaningful progress towards closing Guantánamo, which President Obama has repeatedly argued will make our nation safer. Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008 that “there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U. S. combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.” Opportunistic calls to keep Guantanamo open into its ninth year will do nothing to make America safer.