Today's an anniversary, but there's no reason to celebrate. Ten years ago the first detainees were brought to Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo has undermined American values and jeopardized our national security for a decade -- that's long enough. So I've joined a group of retired military officers and habeas attorneys calling for Guantanamo's immediate closure. We've launched www.closeguantanamo.org and have initiated a petition urging President Obama to honor the commitment he made, on his second day in office, to close the prison.
Signatories to our Mission Statement include Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell; Gen. David M. Brahms (Ret.); Rear Adm. Donald J. Guter (Ret.); Rear Adm. John D. Hutson (Ret.); Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for the Military Commissions at Guantanamo; retired federal Judge John J. Gibbons, who argued the first Guantanamo case in the Supreme Court; along with many other colleagues who've been involved in the Guantanamo litigation.
Over half the prisoners still at Guantanamo were cleared for release years ago, by an Obama Administration task force made up of the top intelligence and law enforcement officials in the nation. Some were cleared previously by the Bush Administration -- as long ago as 2004. These men are hardly the "worst of the worst" -- they're simply politically inconvenient.
They remain locked up because some fear-mongering members of Congress have opposed the transfer of anyone from Guantanamo, even those cleared of participation in any wrongdoing. And because thus far the Obama Administration has avoided standing up to that demagoguery. We hope President Obama will renew the pledge he made to close Guantanamo: it's the principled and pragmatic thing to do.
As President Obama said in early 2009, "The existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained." Guantanamo continues to serve as a potent symbol for terrorist recruitment and harms our nation every day it remains open.
But not only our national security is at stake; so too is our fundamental commitment to the rule of law. Through Guantanamo we've codified a state of legal limbo: our country is holding men behind bars indefinitely who've been cleared for release. Most of those who have not been previously cleared have not yet been tried, and there's no guarantee they ever will be. It should be profoundly troubling to all Americans that our bedrock Constitutional principles have become so fungible, so easily dispensed with in the name of political expediency. Surely we are a greater nation than that.
The "Close Guantanamo" campaign invites anyone opposed to the continued existence of Guantanamo to sign up to join the campaign, to show the president and Congress that there is significant support for the prison's closure, and also to sign a "We the People" petition on the White House website, calling for the prison's closure. The White House commits to respond to any petition that receives 25,000 signatures within 30 days. Our goal is to show that many more than that still care about this issue.
Ten years is long enough. Close Guantanamo now!