PT Supports Guantanamo Detainee Transfer Provision
November 18, 2013
We are writing to ask you to support the Guantánamo detainee transfer provisions included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014, as reported out of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). We are all family members of those killed in the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks. Since that tragic event, we have worked together as members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows [http://www.peacefultomorrows.org] for long-lasting solutions to the violence that claimed our loved ones’ lives.
In recent years, Guantánamo prison and the on-going Military Commission hearings for the 9/11 suspects at Guantánamo have been a particular focus of our concern and action. We believe closing Guantánamo is good human rights policy and good national security policy. The Guantánamo provisions in the Senate NDAA provide the necessary flexibility to execute that policy responsibly. We urge your support of the Guantánamo provisions in the Senate NDAA and urge you to vote “no” on any amendments that would further restrict transfers.
When Peaceful Tomorrows first organized, we committed to working together to promote U.S. foreign policy that places a priority on internationally-recognized principles of human rights and to calling attention to threats to human rights that might result from U.S. responses to 9/11. Guantánamo has become a stain on our national reputation. Today, it is simply no longer sustainable – ethically, strategically, or financially.
We are keenly aware of the continuing injustice of holding the 164 prisoners now at Guantanamo prison without trial for these many years. These prisoners have been denied the justice which Americans take pride in as a source of national strength. At the same time, our 9/11 family members continue to be denied justice by the seemingly imperceptible progress of trying those prisoners under the current military commissions. We advocate the immediate release of those who have been cleared for release, and the transfer of the remaining prisoners to be tried in US federal courts, which have successfully tried and convicted scores of terrorists in the past decade.
More than half of the Guantánamo detainees have long been cleared for transfer by our own national security and intelligence agencies. Current law has needlessly complicated moving these cleared detainees. This law must be revised. The SASC foreign transfer provisions will do that while ensuring that any risks are far outweighed by the dangers of continuing the status quo. Major General Paul Eaton (Ret.) has cautioned that unless we institute change, Guantánamo will serve as “a recruiting tool of the first order” for those who wish us harm, while damaging cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism that will result in lost intelligence opportunities. Worse yet is the effect it has had on Americans, corrupting their faith in American values that has taken centuries to build.
To continue to spend nearly $2.7 million per detainee, per year makes no sense at a time when Congress is wrestling with deep budget cuts. We can institute an intelligent, factor-based system that will allow the Secretary of Defense to explain to Congress whether a transfer is in America’s national security interests, and the steps that will be taken to mitigate any risk of a detainee engaging in terrorist activities after release.
In his May speech at the National Defense University, President Obama recommitted his administration to closing Guantánamo. Since that time, the administration has appointed envoys at the Departments of Defense and State to oversee the closure of Guantánamo. This is absolutely the right thing to do now, but Congress must also do its part.
The Guantánamo provisions in the Senate NDAA clarify and modify the President’s authority to transfer detainees to foreign countries and provide important additional flexibility to close Guantánamo responsibly. They replace a cumbersome certification and waiver regime with sensible, factor-based standards designed to minimize risks. They lift the ban on transfers to the United States for criminal prosecution, which is critical now that we see how federal criminal courts offer a more experienced and less costly way to try terrorism suspects than the flawed, costly, inefficient, and perhaps unconstitutional, military commissions system at Guantánamo Bay. The experiment of the military commissions of the 21st century has proven inadequate to its promises of justice, transparency, fairness and speed.
It is more than twelve years after the heinous attacks in which our loved ones died. During that time some of our fellow 9/11 family members have died waiting to see justice done. Enough is enough! It is time for the U.S. to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law by moving detainees cleared for release out of Guantánamo, by making federal trials for those who are accused of terrorist crimes possible, and by taking steps to close the Guantánamo facilities that have earned the U.S. the enmity of the world. We exhort you to pass the NDAA without transfer restrictions on Guantanamo prisoners, and help to bring this horrible chapter to a close in our lifetimes.
Our relatives died on 9/11; we do not want to see U.S. principles compromised in their names.
The Members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Campaigns and Projects
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows Rule of Law campaign mobilizes and amplifies the voices of 9/11 family members who support closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, restoring the rule of law, and ending indefinite detention and other violations of human rights that have become an enduring legacy of the U.S. "War on Terror." Our goal for this initiative has been to strengthen the reasonable voices of 9/11 family members who support the rule of law in all aspects of dealing with the perpetrators and accused perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. This includes the decision to conduct federal versus military trials, to close Guantanamo, to end indefinite detention, to end the military commissions, and related issues.
When the U.S. Kills an American Citizen
(This letter was published in the New York Times)
To the Editor:
Re “A U.S. Citizen, in America’s Cross Hairs” (front page, March 10), about the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen:
I am a United States citizen; I was born here and have lived here all of my 81 years. If I were a threat to this country’s safety, I would expect to be caught and brought to justice.
The idea that any president can kill an American citizen without a trial is abhorrent and frankly scares me more than any act of any “terrorist.”
Senator Rand Paul’s politics are not mine by any stretch of the imagination, but I applaud him for trying to make the American public aware of what those we elected are doing.
It is a disgrace.
New York, March 10, 2013
The writer, whose brother died in the World Trade Center, is a co-founder of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
Starting in 2002, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows helped lead opposition to the war in Iraq. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, we looked for ways to remain supportive of the Iraqi people. As part of our solidarity efforts, we have helped to publicize the campaigns of the Iraqi nonviolence network, La’Onf, to let people know that Iraqi citizens have a vision for their country that includes peaceful relations among different religious and ethnic groups, equal rights for women, and human rights and freedom for all. We are also a member of the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, a collaboration between Iraqi and international NGOs to effect change that supports justice and democracy in Iraq.
In January 2002 four people who would soon become founding members of Peaceful Tomorrows traveled to Afghanistan to witness the consequences of U.S. military intervention, to express concern about the devastation of civilian casualties and to draw attention to the prospect that this war would increase terrorist recruitment. Peaceful Tomorrows members have continued to travel to Afghanistan, to speak out against war and violence in Afghanistan, and to build friendship and collaboration with civil society organizations in Afghanistan and elsewhere in support of peace for the women, men and children of Afghanistan. Peaceful Tomorrows works for an end to foreign military action and foreign military funding in Afghanistan, for a ceasefire and negotiated path forward, and for nonviolent and inclusive rebuilding and healing for Afghan society.
On Monday June 24, twenty-five members and religious leaders of the Metrowest interfaith community met with Wilnelia Rivera, the External Affairs Director for the Patrick administration to discuss the slight that the Islamic community felt from the governor’s office after the Boston Marathon Bombing. Other leaders present included Susan Thel of the Framingham Quakers, Michael Furstberg of the Workmen’s Circle, Dr. Asif Razvi of the ICB in Wayland, Mr. Anwar Kasmi, a board member of the I.S.B.C.C., and Shaheen Akhtar, leader of the Wayland interfaith book group. The issue was that the Muslim religious community felt slighted when a secular Muslim leader was selected to participate in the interfaith memorial service attended by President and Mrs. Obama, shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing. Their understanding was that an invitation had originally been extended to Imam Suhaib Webb, and was then rescinded the evening before. Read more
9/11 Stories: Our Voices, Our Choices