VIA US MAIL AND E-MAIL
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Some of us are Democrats, some Republicans, and some independents. Like you, we are Illinois lawyers who believe strongly that adherence to the Rule of Law is critical to our national reputation and values, and that we can effectively combat terrorism and, at the same time, maintain fidelity to the Rule of Law. As you have stated, it is particularly important that we adhere to our principles not only when it is easy, but when it is most difficult to do so.
January 11 marked the twelfth anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo prison. There should be no thirteenth anniversary. All steps must be taken to close that prison as soon as possible. That is not a partisan goal; Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Robert Gates, John McCain and Richard Lugar, as well as many other prominent Republicans, have called for the closing of Guantánamo. As you have said: “GITMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the Rule of Law.”
You have stated exactly what must be done: “[W]e’ve got to close Guantánamo…. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.” We strongly support your commitment to close the Guantánamo prison, and we are encouraged by the news that seven prisoners have been released over the past several months.
Mr. President, Congress has passed the legislation you requested easing the former restrictions on transferring detainees to other countries; you now have all the authority you need to close Guantánamo. As Senator Carl Levin stated, the legislation “provides a clear route for the transfer of detainees to third countries.” Many countries have already offered to take them. The legislation also allows the administration, without congressional restrictions, to transfer prisoners by consenting to court orders authorizing their transfer, a clear and simple route for the many who have already been cleared.
As you know, half of the prisoners still at Guantánamo—seventy-seven of the 155 there—were cleared for transfer over four years ago by your Joint Task Force, yet they remain at Guantánamo Bay!
They should be returned to their homes and families immediately. The others have been promised hearings before newly appointed boards, but few have been held. These hearings should proceed immediately. Those cleared at these hearings should be promptly released. Those not cleared should be charged and tried as soon as possible, and dealt with appropriately. Our country does not condone indefinite detention without trial.
To summarize: for more than eleven years, most of these men have been deprived of their liberty without trials. This is a tragedy for them and their loved ones and a rallying cry for our enemies.
We ask you to use your existing authority to close Guantánamo.