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Thursday, January 21, 2010

When Will Guantanamo be Closed?

A year after President Obama signed Executive Orders ending torture and ordering the closure of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in the wake of the attempted Christmas Day bombing, four retired generals gathered today to reiterate their support for the lawful treatment of suspected terrorists and the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Representing a group of 33 retired generals and admirals with diverse and distinguished military careers, the generals stated that torture, military commissions, and Guantanamo undermine national security and American values. The group spoke at the National Press Club in a discussion hosted by Human Rights First.

The group has been outspoken on these issues, lobbying in many outlets for the closure of Guantanamo, the lawful treatment of detainees, and the trial of detainees in federal court.

Torture is not only unlawful and immoral under US law and values. Torture undermines security efforts. It fails to produce reliable, actionable intelligence. Instead, it soils our reputation abroad and provides enemies of the United States with effective propaganda. Guantanamo provides an apt symbol of previous torture by US officials and must be closed, both to speed our return to the rule of law and to aid our national security efforts. As former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Harry Soyster pointed out today, intelligence gathering relies on informants abroad who trust that detainees will be treated humanely.

Retired military judge and Brigadier General James Cullen pointed out, the United States justice system has proved successful in trying, convicting, and imprisoning terrorists. 195 international terrorists were convicted in US federal courts between 9/11 and July 2009; 355 domestic and international terrorists are currently held in US prisons. None have escaped. Further, Cullen said, though the now reformed military commissions can provide a fair trial, they will not achieve the same credibility as a federal criminal court.

We must close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, to provide complete closure and show our allies abroad that the United States has decisively rejected the practice of torture. Torture at Guantanamo, Bagram, and CIA black sites was not the action of a few rogue interrogators; it was the product of policy carefully crafted by the Bush administration, and legal cover from the Office of Legal Counsel. To effectively prevent future torture, we must hold accountable those who designed that policy and provided that cover. In an effort to achieve accountability for torture and close Guntanamo, AFJ participated in an action today to raise awareness about this vital issue. To learn more you can watch our short documentary, Tortured Law.

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