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GITMO and Why It Needs to Go


To Senators Kelly Ayote, Richard Burr, and Lindsey Graham,
Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the prison that currently holds 91 men and has
held 779 in total, has been a controversial staple of the United States prison system since
its establishment in January 2002. Governments and human rights groups have
condemned the United States for failing to respect human rights and humanitarian law,
and the unfair treatment of the prisoners has come under scrutiny from the general
American public, as well (Chlopak). Many of the prisoners held at the camp are no longer
considered threats by the American government, and the idea of Guantanamo Bay as a
necessary and needed detention facility is outdated. President Obama has made it his
mission while in office to shut down the unlawful prison camp, and as his second and
final term as president comes to a close, all members of congress must get on board with
his actions and help shut down Guantanamo Bay.
Understanding Guantanamo Bay, commonly referred to as GITMO, and its once
seemingly essential presence is necessary in fully comprehending the prison and its place
in society now. Opened in 2002 following the devastating attacks on the World Trade
Center in New York City on September 11, 2011, President George W. Bush set an
executive order into place to open Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Meant to detain
highly threatening and dangerous terrorists, the prison somewhat accomplished its goal of
securing high ranking al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists known to the United States at that
time. There were also, however, hundreds of detainees that were essentially suspected
foot soldiers subjected to harsh and horrible treatment in the camp (Steyn). The camp
quickly came under scrutiny as details of its unethical treatment of prisoners were

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released to the public. A photograph released just weeks after the prisons opening,
showing detainees chained with masks, goggles, and sound-blocking earmuffs, caused
major concern, directed at how Guantanamo was treating its prisoners under the Geneva
Conventions (Annas, Rubenstein). The Geneva Conventions are a series of treaties that
discuss the humanitarian treatment of civilians, prisoners of war, and soldiers,
specifically in regards to the standards of international law (Meron). The Conventions
essentially state the basic rights of prisoners, establish protections for the wounded and
sick, and establish protections for the civilians in and around a war-zone (Meron). These
treaties and protocols ensure that the wellbeing of all individuals, regardless of their
status within the war, is considered and that all are treated with humanity.
Many arguments surrounding GITMO lie in the stance that the prison breaks
many of the laws within the Geneva Conventions, mainly in terms of the treatment of
prisoners, and it should be closed in clear violations of those laws. Beyond just breaking
laws, Guantanamo Bay disregards fundamental American values. It undermines the
authority and authenticity of the United States by treating prisoners of war in ways that
the United States has also condemned, specifically during the Vietnam War, when
Americans were held hostage overseas (Fleur).
Beyond the treatment of prisoners, further arguments to close Guantanamo Bay
surround the fact that many of the once highly dangerous prisoners are no longer serious
threats to the United States. Many of the people still held at GITMO have been cleared by
the government to return to their homes. Of the 91 current detainees, 37 have
recommendations of release by the high-level governmental review process. The
argument that the terrorists are still highly dangerous is much less probable, considering

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the prisoners are still from the early 2000s and no longer have viable information
surrounding current day terrorist operations. For those that have been recommended for
continued detainment, there are transfer options in the United States and around the world
to keep the still-dangerous prisoners in confinement. Prisoners that are recommended by
periodic review boards for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial by the highlevel or prosecution by the task force are still considered highly dangerous, yet are
determined so by information obtained through illegal methods of torture or other forms
of abuse, unable to be used to put the prisoners on trail in a court of law (Worthington).
These prisoners hold the most challenges. Deemed forever prisoners, the men cannot
be released but cannot technically be transferred, either, as it would violate the Geneva
Conventions (Vierucci). However, that law within the Geneva Conventions stands to be
interpreted, as there is no clear start or end to war as categorized in the Conventions.
Instead, the said prisoners are in limbo, and could potentially be transferred to highsecurity prisons within the United States.
Keeping Guantanamo Bay open defies what America stands for as a nation.
GITMO disregards humanity on fundamental levels, and treats prisoners that have been
cleared for release without care or respect. By implementing President Obamas plan,
Guantanamo Bay can finally, and officially, be closed, without endangering the United
States or its citizens.
Since first taking office in 2008, President Obama has made known his desire to
close Guantanamo Bay for good. In a remark made by the president just last month,
Obama restated how he intends to close GITMO by the time he is out of office this year,
and how he plans to do so. He said his plan occurs in four steps. First, he plans to

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securely and responsibly transfer the 35 detainees approved for transfer (Obama). All
prisoners would be transferred to countries outside the United States, and the government
would insist that foreign countries instill strong security measures concerning the
transferred individuals. Second, Obama plans to accelerate review processes of the
remaining detainees to determine whether their continued detention is necessary. If
detainees no longer pose a significant threat, they may also be eligible for transfer to
another country. Thirdly, the administration would continue to use legal tools to deal with
the remaining detainees held under law of war detention, which accounts for roughly 10
detainees. The detainees are in some stage of the military commissions process, a process
that Obama intends to reform to improve upon for cost and time spent. Because the
prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay are considered detainees in unique circumstances that
make their cases difficult to be tried in Article 3 courts, their cases will continued to be
tried through the commissions. Fourth and finally, Obama plans to work with Congress to
find a secure location within the United States to hold the remaining prisoners. The final
part of the plan falls under heavy speculation and scrutiny from opponents of the closing,
saying that there is no location secure enough to safely detain the prisoners. In Obamas
release, he failed to identify a specific facility; instead saying the administration was
outlining what options look like. However, there are multiple high-security prisons
within the United States that would be appropriate in detaining the rest of the prisoners.
The highest security prison in the United States is the United States Penitentiary,
Administrative Maximum Facility in Fremont County, Colorado. The prison is the only
supermax prison in America, but there are other namable prisons that could act as
further detention locations. The United States Penitentiary Marion, in Marion, Illinois, is

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no longer considered supermax, but still stands as one of the most notable prisons in the
US. Other options are Folsom State Prison in Folsom, California, and Louisiana State
Penitentiary, known as Angola, which is the largest maximum-security prison in America.
Beyond having actual facilities that have space and resources to hold the
detainees, there are outlined laws on the criminal and non-criminal detention of detainees,
and what can lawfully and legally be done to each prisoner based on their mental health,
physical state, and more (Yin). Most concerns held by opponents of the closing can be
easily argued and disproven, including even the most minute details, like how to
approach the situation of a detainee that is also categorized as mentally ill.
There is already drafted legislation to close Guantanamo Bay that follows
President Obamas proposed plan. It is Section 1032 of Senate-passed National Defense
Authorization Act, or NDAA. It is the legislative equivalent of an olive branch, and
would allow the Secretary of Defense to transfer detainees to the United States for
continued detention or trial but would prohibit them from applying for asylum or from
accruing or gaining lawful immigration status, unless previously granted in Guantanamo
(Stimson). The law would also limit judicial review of detainee cases and require the
Administration to produce a comprehensive plan on the disposition of each detainee,
including costs, legal implications, threat assessment, and a plan for what to do with them
if or when the armed conflict ends (Stimson). The senate passed 1032 on June 18, 2015,
but now must be approved by Congress in a timely manner if there is hope of closing
GITMO by 2017. Legislation must be passed, as there is a viable plan to close one of the
most harmful parts of the United States history in war.

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Finally, the practicality and advantages of the policy, plan, and eventual change
are wide. In 2013, American taxpayers paid $454 million to keep Guantanamo Bay open
and functioning with only 91 detainees. That is roughly $5 million per detainee that has
been cleared for release or transfer. Closing GITMO would generate savings of up to $1.7
billion over 20 years. More than just money, closing Guantanamo Bay would finally put
an end to a chapter of American history that has been scrutinized and criticized. It would
release cleared individuals to return to their homes and families, and would put an end to
the discussion of inconsistent followings of the Geneva Conventions. Citizens of the
United States would be just as safe, and daily life would not change if the prisoners were
detained in the United States, rather than at an offshore location. In fact, the United States
already detains dangerous terrorists on American soil without problem (Obama). National
security would not be threatened, human beings would be allowed to return to their loved
ones, and the United States would not be deemed irresponsible or unconstitutional in its
treating of prisoners of war. Logistically, the plan is completely viable once there are
designated prisons that would take the detainees. There is money in the governmental
budget to transfer the prisoners that would cost far lower than what the United States is
spending to keep GITMO open now. Beyond that, there is nothing stopping the
legislation from providing a safe, reasonable, and helpful option to close Guantanamo
Bay.
There is no reason to keep Guantanamo Bay as a prison for the United States. It
served its purpose of giving American citizens peace of mind, but the time in Americas
history has come for the prison to close. Please consider all of this information as you
reevaluate your feelings towards Guantanamo Bays existence, including the fact that one

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of the generals responsible for Guantanamos existence now says it was a mistake
(Sutton). It is up to you whether America closes an unnecessary and unflattering addition
to its existence as a military force, and up to you whether human beings can return to
their families and loved ones after spending years apart. Take the time to vote for closing
Guantanamo Bay, join millions of other supporters of the cause online and in person, and
support President Obamas final mission in office. Please allow these people to go home,
and allow an awful part of Americas history to come to a close. Opportunity for
redemption is in your hands.
Thank you,
Yardyn Shraga

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Sources used and cited:
Chlopak, Erin. "Dealing with the Detainees at Guantanamo Bay: Humanitarian and
Human Rights Obligations under the Geneva Conventions." Human Rights Brief 9, no. 3
(2002): 6-9, 13.
Herb, Jeremy. "GOP Senators Move to Keep Gitmo Open." POLITICO. N.p., 13 Jan.
2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Johns, Fleur. "European Journal of International Law." Guantnamo Bay and the
Annihilation of the Exception. Eur J Int Law, Sept. 2005. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Meron, Theodor. The Geneva Conventions as Customary Law. The American Journal
of International Law 81.2 (1987): 348370. Web...
Obama, Barack. "Remarks by the President on Plan to Close the Prison at Guantanamo
Bay." The White House. The White House, 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Rubenstein, Leonard S., and George J. Annas. "Medical Ethics at Guantanamo Bay
Detention Centre and in the US Military: A Time for Reform." Public Health, 25 July
2009. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
Smith, Clive S. "Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side." Google Books. Nation
Books, 2007. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Steyn, Johan. Guantanamo Bay: The Legal Black Hole. The International and
Comparative Law Quarterly 53.1 (2004): 115. Web...
Stimson, Charles. "Closing Guantanamo: A Legal and Policy Analysis of the Senate
Provision." The Heritage Foundation. National Security and Defense, 28 Sept. 2015.
Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Sutton, Jane. "The General Who Opened Gitmo Says It Should Be Shut Down." The
Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

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Vierucci, Luisa. "Journal of International Criminal Justice." Prisoners of War or
Protected Persons qua Unlawful Combatants? The Judicial Safeguards to Which
Guantanamo Bay Detainees Are Entitled. J Int Criminal Justice, 2003. Web. 20 Mar.
2016.
White, Adam J. "Toward the Framers' Understanding of Advice and Consent: A Historical
and Textual Inquiry." Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 29.1 (2005-2006): 103148.
Worthington, Andy. "Periodic Review Boards." All RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
Yung, Tin. "Ending the War on Terrorism One Terrorist At a Time: A Noncriminal
Detention Model For Holding and Releasing Guantanamo Bay Detainees." Harvard
Journal of Law & Public Policy, Fall 2005. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.