145 House Democrats to Bush: Close Guantanamo Bay now
In a letter delivered Friday morning, 145 Democrats led by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) called on President George W. Bush to immediately close the detention facility for alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The letter, which was also signed by one Republican (Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina), also seeks a restoration of the habeas corpus rights of the detainees at the jail. While the letter showed the strong support in the House Democratic caucus for the shuttering of the facility, reminders emerged that some Congress members could face domestic political risks from the potential closure of the prison.
"Guantanamo Bay has a become a liability in the broader global war on terror, as allegations of torture, the indefinite detention of innocent men, and international objections to the treatment of enemy combatants has hurt our credibility as the beacon for freedom and justice. Its continued operation also threatens the safety of U.S. citizens and military personnel detained abroad," said the letter delivered to the President today and provided to RAW STORY. "The closure of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay would represent a positive first step toward restoring our international reputation as the leader of democracy and individual rights."
The letter was prepared by Rep. Moran, who sits on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and was tasked this year by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) with devising a plan to close the base.
In a statement provided by his office, Moran proposes sending the detainees to military jails in the United States.
"U.S. military brigs at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas and Charleston, S.C. have been identified by military officials as locations where detainees could be securely held while awaiting trial or transfer to their country of origin," the statement said.
But not all Democrats in the House were in favor of this idea. The Congresswoman whose district includes the military brig at Fort Leavenworth offered a muted appraisal of Moran's idea.
"Nancy is concerned about the potential for Leavenworth to become a terrorist target if prisoners from Gitmo are moved to the Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth," a spokesperson from the office of Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-KS) said in a statement e-mailed last week to RAW STORY. "She also has concerns as to whether the Disciplinary Barracks has the necessary space and security measures in place to accept a transfer in the near future."
Boyda's response may be a result of concerns about the political peril that closing Guantanamo Bay could create. The Republican presidential primary debate in South Carolina on May 15 showed how the opponents of Democrats are likely to politicize the closure of the detention facility for alleged terrorists in Cuba in the 2008 Elections.
"I'm glad they're at Guantanamo. I don't want them on our soil. I want them on Guantanamo, where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons. I want them there," said former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney during the debate. "My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo."
Moran's letter was prompted by news last week that the White House had scheduled a meeting with top officials on closing Guantanamo Bay. After reports of the meeting was leaked, it was canceled.
"The decision...to not have the meeting happened late in the day after that [Associated Press] story came out," said deputy press secretary Dana Perino last Friday. "Right now they're in Guantanamo, and then we'll just have to see from where we go. One of the reasons that these meetings, these interagency meetings are held is to discuss these very complex issues."
In related news Friday morning, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the challenge of two Guantanamo Bay prisoners of their detention at the facility during its next term, which begins in the Fall, according to the website SCOTUSBlog. The Justice Department had urged the Supreme Court to reject hearing the cases.
A list of legislators who signed Moran's letter, and the text of the letter, are presented below.
The Moran letter has been signed by 145 members of the House of Representatives including: Reps. Abercrombie, Ackerman, Allen, R. Andrews, Arcuri, Becerra, Baldwin, Brady, S. Bishop, T. Bishop, Blumenauer, Bordallo, Boucher, Braley, Brown (FL), Capps, Capuano, Carson, Christensen, Clarke, Clay, Cleaver, Clyburn, Cohen, Conyers, Courtney, Crowley, Cummings, D. Davis (IL), DeFazio, DeGette, Delahunt, DeLauro, Dicks, Doggett, Doyle, Ellison, Emanuel, Eshoo, Farr, Fattah, Filner, Frank, Giffords, Gonzalez, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Hall, Hare, Harman, Higgins, Hirono, Hinchey, Hodes, Holt, Honda, Hoyer, Inslee, Israel, Jackson-Lee, Jefferson, E.B. Johnson, H. Johnson, S. Jones (IL), W. Jones (NC), Kagen, Kanjorski, Kaptur, Kennedy, Kildee, Kilpatrick, Kind, Kucinich, Lantos, J. Larson, R. Larson, Lee, Levin, Lewis (GA), Loebsack, Lofgren, Lowey, C. McCarthy, McCollum, McDermott, McNerney, McGovern, Maloney, Markey, Meehan, Meeks, Michaud, G. Miller, Moore, C. Murphy, Nadler, Napolitano, Neal, Norton, Oberstar, Obey, Olver, Pallone, Pascrell, Pastor, Payne, Perlmutter, D. Price, Roybal-Allard, Rangel, Rahall, Rothman, Ryan, Linda Sanchez, Schakowsky, Schiff, Schwartz, D. Scott, R. Scott, Serrano, Shea-Porter, Sires, Slaughter, Solis, Stark, Sutton, Tierney, B. Thompson, M. Thompson, Towns, M. Udall, T. Udall, Van Hollen, Velazquez, Visclosky, Walz, Waters, Watson, Waxman, Weiner, Welch, Wexler, Woolsey, Wu, Wynn.
June 28, 2007
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Recent reports in the media have suggested that your administration is now considering reversing its position to keep open the detention facilities at Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). If accurate, we applaud the decision.
Since the time that captured “enemy combatants” were first brought to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, the detainment facility has undermined America’s image as the model of justice and protector of human rights around the world. Holding prisoners for an indefinite period of time, without charging them with a crime goes against our values, ideals and principles as a nation governed by the rule of law. Further, Guantanamo Bay has a become a liability in the broader global war on terror, as allegations of torture, the indefinite detention of innocent men, and international objections to the treatment of enemy combatants has hurt our credibility as the beacon for freedom and justice. Its continued operation also threatens the safety of U.S. citizens and military personnel detained abroad.
The House-passed National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1585) included a provision requiring the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay. United States military barracks have the capability to provide for the secure detainment of foreign nationals while ensuring the safety of communities within their proximate geographic location. Further, the military locations afford on-site access to military courtrooms for the timely adjudication of all legal proceedings.
The closure of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay would represent a positive first step toward restoring our international reputation as the leader of democracy and individual rights. However, we also feel that it is necessary to restore the right of habeas corpus to the detainees. This will allow for the implementation of fair and transparent trials to bring enemies of our country to justice.
The global war on terror cannot be won through military might alone. It is a war of ideas and philosophies. A liability of our own creation, the existence of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay is defeating our effort to ensure that the principles of freedom, justice and human rights are spread throughout the world.
We look forward to working with you on what we hope is a shared objective to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.
James P. Moran