An Open Letter to President Obama: Close Guantánamo Bay

An Open Letter to President Obama: Close Guantánamo Bay

An Open Letter to President Obama: Close Guantánamo Bay

Prominent lawyers from Obama's home state of Illinois urge the president to shutter the infamous, illegal prison. 


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.


-Hon. Abner J. Mikva, Member of Congress (1969-1973, 1975-1979); Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (1979-1994; Chief Judge, 1991-1994); Counsel to the President (1994-1995)
-Hon. James R. Thompson, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (1971- 1975); Governor of the State of Illinois (1977-1991); Winston & Strawn
-Hon. George N. Leighton, Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County (1964-1969), Judge, Illinois Appellate Court (1969-1976); Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (1976-1987)
-Hon. Benjamin K. Miller, Justice, Illinois Supreme Court (1984-2001); Jenner & Block LLP
-Dan K. Webb, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (1981-1985), Winston & Strawn
-Anton R. Valukas, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (1985-1989), Jenner & Block LLP
-Thomas P. Sullivan, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, (1977-1981); Jenner & Block LLP
-Tyrone C. Fahner, Attorney General of the State of Illinois (1980-1983); Mayer Brown LLP
-Hon. Adlai Stevenson III, United States Senator (1970-1981); Chairman, Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy
-Hon. Carol Moseley Braun, United States Senator (1993-1999), Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa (1999-2001); Founder, Good Foods Organic
-John R. Schmidt, Associate Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice (1994- 1997); Mayer Brown LLP
-Hon. Warren Wolfson, Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County (1975-1994); Judge, Illinois Appellate Court (1994-2009); DePaul Law School (Acting Dean 2009-2011)
-Martin J. Oberman, Member, Chicago City Council (1975-1987); Law Offices of Martin J. Oberman
-Judson H. Miner, Corporation Counsel of the City of Chicago (1986-1989); Miner Barnhill & Galland, PC
-Robert A. Helman, Mayer Brown LLP
-Scott Turow, author; Dentons
-Lowell E. Sachnoff, ReedSmith LLP
-Ronald S. Safer, Schiff Hardin LLP
-Todd A. Smith, Power Rogers & Smith, PC
-Daniel E. Reidy, Jones Day
-William F. Conlon, Sidley Austin LLP
-Vincent J. Connelly, Mayer Brown LLP
-Fay Clayton, Robinson Curley & Clayton, PC
-Ronald S. Miller, Miller Shakman & Beem LLP
-Randolph N. Stone, University of Chicago Law School
-Patricia A. Bronte, Stowell & Friedman, Ltd.
-Jeffrey D. Colman, Jenner & Block LLP
-Gary A. Isaac, Mayer Brown LLP
-Charles F. (Chuck) Smith, Skadden Arps LLP
-David J. Bradford, Jenner & Block LLP
-Kimball R. Anderson, Winston & Strawn
-Robert L. Graham, Jenner & Block LLP
-Sidney N. (Skip) Herman, Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP
-Steven H. Cohen, Cohen Law Offices
-Daniel M. Feeney, Miller Shakman & Beem LLP
-Charles H.R. Peters, Schiff Hardin LLP
-Jeffrey I. Cummings, Miner Barnhill & Galland, PC
-Cynthia A. (Cindy) Wilson, Northwestern University School of Law
-Matthew J. O’Hara, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP
-J. Andrew Moss, ReedSmith LLP
-Leonard C. Goodman
-Nancy C. Loeb, Northwestern Law School

Note from senders: Institutional names are included to identify counsel and not to reflect that the institutions or law firms support the views in this letter. Responses may be made to Thomas P. Sullivan. To contact him, e-mail [email protected], telephone 312.923.2928 or send mail to Jenner & Block LLP, 353 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654.

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