One way to achieve this would be to pass the “Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2007,” S.1469. The bill, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin, would close the facility within 120 days and send charged or sentenced detainees to the military's maximum security prison at Fort Leavenworth. The remaining detainees would be sent to their home countries or other countries that will not torture or abuse them.
I'm told that all the major Presidential candidates have taken a position on Guantanamo. Sen. Obama regularly calls to close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus, and Sen. Clinton often says something similar. As yet, however, neither Sens. Clinton, Obama nor McCain have not signed on as co-sponsors of S. 1469. (Clinton has signed on to a Feinstein bill that closes Guantanamo. Unsurprisingly, given the author, the billcreates new problems by authorizing indefinite detention without charge.)
The ACLU is making today “Close Guantanamo Day”. Below I reprint their press release on it. There will also be a “Rush Hour Vigil” this afternoon at 5pm near South Com. I won't be able to make it, but Linda has details. And there are other events around the country.
I still hold to what I wrote in October 2003, in Guantanamo: Our Collective Shame:
As citizens we all bear a degree of collective responsibility for what our government does in our name. That responsibility is greater when we are or should be on notice. And thus, we are all responsible for what is happening in Guantanamo detention camps.
We are collectively responsible for what is happening in Camp Delta and Camp Iguana (the latter holds children). It is, or it should be, a matter of shame that our government chose to confine the Camp Delta prisoners in solitary, indefinitely, without news or the prospect of having their cases determined in the foreseeable future and where the policy is “We interrogate seven days a week, 24 hours a day.” (Interrogations, however, are limited [sic] “to no more than 16 straight hours” straight at one go.) There is no right to speedy trial (or other Geneva-convention-style hearing), or even to a trial. If and when trials do begin, there will be no right to to a proper attorney-client relationship even though the trials can end in the death penalty. Nor will there be a right to appeal the initial tribunal’s verdict to a neutral court staffed by judges with the neutrality of perspective that comes from life tenure.
As of a year ago, the BBC was reporting at least 30 suicide attempts out of a prison population of 600. While it’s possible that there is something about the population of detainees that predisposes them to suicide attempts, it’s also quite possible that it’s something about the conditions and, if so, conditions that bad arguably amount to illegal torture under international law. On the other hand, the rate of suicide attempts may be down as a recent CBS report put the total at 32.
This rich nation of ours can afford to give each detainee a first class fair trial, if it wanted to. In so doing it would send a healthy message about our values to the world. The decision not do so is a choice. By making that choice the Administration is sending a terrible message to the world. It’s also a really lousy precedent.
I also believe that it’s constitutionally wrong. Our government is, or should be, an entity subject to the Constitution. I do not read that document to allow our government to act lawlessly and without review. And certainly not indefinitely.
A government sure of itself, and confident of the rightness of its actions, would not hide the detainees in legal limbo. To do so suggests a meanness of spirit at best, a tendency to lawlessness and something to hide at worst, and a tin ear to the world’s opinion at all times.
We in the US—indeed all those in the Coalition of the willing —are responsible for this. If the courts will not take jurisdiction over events at Guantanamo, then we must demand that all the prisoners held there be moved to a place where ordinary civilized rules apply.
Text of ACLU Press Release:
Guantanamo Bay: Six Years and Counting… Detention facility remains a stain on American values; ACLU urges Congress to close GITMO
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 10, 2008 Contact: Matthew Allee or Liz Rose, (202) 675-2312, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, DC – Tomorrow, January 11, 2008, marks six years since men and boys from around the world were first shipped off to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, locked up and often abused by the American government. Since that dark day in recent American history, more than 700 people have been detained without due process and not a single trial has been completed. The American Civil Liberties Union reiterates its call to Congress to shut down the detention facility immediately and restore due process rights for those being held.
“After six years of holding these individuals without charge, Guantanamo Bay can be viewed as nothing short of an American dungeon,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Detainees have been locked up and our government has thrown away the keys, and with it the basic values we hold dear. America does not stand for indefinite detention without charge and the time for Guantanamo Bay to be closed is long overdue.”
Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would close the detention facility and restore due process rights to those being held at Guantanamo. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 1469, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2007. The bill requires the president to close the facility within 120 days of enactment – during which time detainees would be charged and sent to either the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, or transferred to another country that will not torture or abuse them.
“Senator Harkin worked diligently to craft legislation that properly shuts down Guantanamo Bay and ends the indefinite detention of those being held. This is a major step in restoring the American image as a beacon of freedom in the world,” said Christopher Anders, legislative counsel for the ACLU. “Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama have all spoken forcefully about shutting down the detention facility during their presidential campaigns but none have yet signed on to Senator Harkin's legislation. Talk on the campaign trail comes easy, but signing on to the legislation would be a real commitment to shutting Guantanamo Bay.”
The ACLU is encouraging demonstrations in cities across America and asking activists to wear orange in protest. For more information on the Guantanamo protests visit: http://www.aclu.org/closeguantanamo.
For more information on the Harkin bill visit: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.1469: