This week, the House of Representatives will debate closing the detention facility located at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Leading up to the debate, it is important to correct some of the distortions that have built up over the past 11 years. This document is designed to lay out the facts regarding GTMO.
MYTH: Closing GTMO would endanger our security and invite terrorism attacks.
FACT: There are ZERO facts to support the claim that trying or detaining suspected terrorists in the United States would endanger national security. More than 400 defendants charged with crimes related to international terrorism have been successfully convicted in the United States since 9/11, including one former GTMO detainee, who was tried in New York City (see United States v. Ghaliani), with no security incidents. More than 300 individuals convicted of crimes related to international terrorism are currently incarcerated in federal prisons within the United States with no escapes or attacks in attempts to free them.
MYTH: Closing GTMO would be expensive.
FACT: Keeping GTMO open is expensive. In fact, it is the most expensive prison in the world. We are currently spending approximately $1.6 MILLION per detainee each year at Guantanamo Bay, compared to $34,046 per inmate at a high-security federal prison. The cost of transfers to the United States and construction and modification of prisons in the United States would not equal the continued cost of GTMO. The FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act provides more than $260 million in operations costs, and more than $186 million for construction to continue operating a “temporary” facility. The financial costs for keeping GTMO open are massive and unnecessary.
MYTH: Security costs for trials in the United States for GTMO detainees would be extremely high.
FACT: One GTMO detainee has already been tried in New York City (see United States v. Ghaliani) with costs on a par with other terrorism cases. Additionally, trying individuals in a military commission at GTMO is excessively expensive. For FY14, the Department of Defense has requested more than $90 million to operate military commissions at GTMO.
MYTH: GTMO Detainees are the worst of the worst.
FACT: While a number of the detainees represent the “worst of the worst,” such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other accused 9/11 conspirators, 86 detainees have been recommended by the intelligence community and the Joint Chiefs of Staff for transfer or release.
MYTH: Terrorism trials in federal civilian courts have resulted in the leak of classified evidence.
FACT: Again, our federal court system has an impeccable record of successfully trying suspected terrorists without compromising national security. In the “Blind Sheik” case in 1993, a list of co-conspirators was released to the public, but due to an error, not a failure of security procedures. Mistakes can happen anywhere and military commission procedures for handling of classified evidence largely copy the procedures used in federal civilian courts.
MYTH: GTMO detainees transferred to the United States may receive additional constitutional rights.
FACT: GTMO detainees have rights now. They are supervised by the federal civilian courts, provided with right of appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and have habeas corpus rights. Any conviction by a military commission will be reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
MYTH: Keeping the facility open does not have a negative impact on our national security and other foreign policy objectives.
FACT: Our allies disagree. The international community continues to demand that GTMO be closed; the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says that GTMO violates international law; the European Parliament has continually demanded that GTMO be closed; world leaders point to GTMO when defending their human rights records; foreign countries only consent to allowing their nationals to be tried in the United States if they are not sent to GTMO. And Al Qaeda effectively and continuously uses it as a recruitment tool.