Closing Gitmo Gets a Hearing, But is Anyone Listening?

It’s hard to believe that more than 11 years into the failed Guantanamo Bay detention center experiment, the US Senate would need to hold a hearing on the national security and human rights implications of closing the detention facility. Four years after President Obama pledged, on his second full day in office, to close it within one year -- and two months after he made a new pledge to do so -- a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee, held such a hearing on Wednesday. The results were mixed.

The Year Ahead 2018

The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

Order now

Senator Dick Durbin, chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, led off the afternoon by reminding the audience that those accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are still awaiting trial at Guantanamo. Several Senators spoke clearly about the travesty of Guantanamo, the need to end indefinite detention, and the intrinsic flaws of the military commissions.

Also on the table were discussions of the hunger strike and the force-feeding of prisoners, which both Senators Durbin and Dianne Feinstein have publicly opposed and called inhumane. Retired Brigadier General Stephen Xenakis testified that force-feeding hunger strikers violates medical ethics and is illegal under international law.

The arguments in favor of keeping Guantanamo open were as hollow as they always have been. Some Senators and panelists discussed a prison break at Abu Ghraib in Iraq earlier this week – an event for which al Qaeda has claimed credit. One witness discussed radicalization in American prisons, as if the men in Guantanamo were going to turn the general population in US federal prisons into Islamist militants (where there already are hundreds of people convicted on terrorism charges through the regular criminal justice system).

The testimony seemed designed only to incite fear, a fear swiftly rejected by Senator Durbin, who said that he has never once heard a resident of Marion, Illinois, raise a fear of a prison break. Marion, in Durbin’s home state of Illinois, houses a federal prison and a special wing that contains mostly persons convicted of terrorism offenses.

Most Senators present, and most witnesses, supported closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. But for many, Guantanamo is just a location, and transferring the men to a prison in the US would satisfy their concerns. But Guantanamo has always been more than just a place, it is an idea - the idea that certain people can be dealt with outside of the law. Indefinite detention is illegal, immoral, and harms US national security, whether it is used at Guantanamo or in the US. That it was not universally rejected at the hearing was deeply troubling.

http://prosyn.org/VfdNSnx;
  1. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

    The Brexit Surrender

    European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have given the go-ahead to talks with Britain on post-Brexit trade relations. But, as European Council President Donald Tusk has said, the most difficult challenge – forging a workable deal that secures broad political support on both sides – still lies ahead.

  2. The Great US Tax Debate

    ROBERT J. BARRO vs. JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS on the impact of the GOP tax  overhaul.


    • Congressional Republicans are finalizing a tax-reform package that will reshape the business environment by lowering the corporate-tax rate and overhauling deductions. 

    • But will the plan's far-reaching changes provide the boost to investment and growth that its backers promise?


    ROBERT J. BARRO | How US Corporate Tax Reform Will Boost Growth

    JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS | Robert Barro's Tax Reform Advocacy: A Response

  3. Murdoch's Last Stand?

    Rupert Murdoch’s sale of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney for $66 billion may mark the end of the media mogul’s career, which will long be remembered for its corrosive effect on democratic discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. 

    From enabling the rise of Donald Trump to hacking the telephone of a murdered British schoolgirl, Murdoch’s media empire has staked its success on stoking populist rage.

  4. Bank of England Leon Neal/Getty Images

    The Dangerous Delusion of Price Stability

    Since the hyperinflation of the 1970s, which central banks were right to combat by whatever means necessary, maintaining positive but low inflation has become a monetary-policy obsession. But, because the world economy has changed dramatically since then, central bankers have started to miss the monetary-policy forest for the trees.

  5. Harvard’s Jeffrey Frankel Measures the GOP’s Tax Plan

    Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a former member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, outlines the five criteria he uses to judge the efficacy of tax reform efforts. And in his view, the US Republicans’ most recent offering fails miserably.

  6. A box containing viles of human embryonic Stem Cell cultures Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

    The Holy Grail of Genetic Engineering

    CRISPR-Cas – a gene-editing technique that is far more precise and efficient than any that has come before it – is poised to change the world. But ensuring that those changes are positive – helping to fight tumors and mosquito-borne illnesses, for example – will require scientists to apply the utmost caution.

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now