The Man Who Opened Guantanamo Prison Says We Need to Shut It Down

The U.S. general charged with establishing the United States’ most notorious prison says the entire operation was a mistake.

A U.S. military guard tower stands on the perimeter of a detainee camp at the U.S. detention center for 'enemy combatants' on September 16, 2010 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Dec. 12, 2013, 8:22 a.m.

More than a dec­ade after the Guantanamo Bay pris­on saw its first de­tain­ees, the man who es­tab­lished it says the cen­ter “should have nev­er been opened,” and it’s time for the gov­ern­ment to shut it down.

Mi­chael Lehnert, the Mar­ine ma­jor gen­er­al charged with build­ing the first 100 pris­on cells at the Cuban pris­on, says he knew early on that Guantanamo was a mis­take. “I be­came more and more con­vinced that many of the de­tain­ees should nev­er have been sent in the first place,” Lehnert, now re­tired, wrote in a column pub­lished Thursday in the De­troit Free Press. “They had little in­tel­li­gence value, and there was in­suf­fi­cient evid­ence link­ing them to war crimes.”

While Lehnert be­lieves some de­tain­ees should be trans­ferred to the U.S. for pro­sec­u­tion, the ma­jor­ity of Guantanamo pris­on­ers shouldn’t be held there. Sup­port­ers of keep­ing the pris­on in op­er­a­tion say re­leased de­tain­ees could re­tali­ate against the U.S. Lehnert says there is no guar­an­tee that any de­tain­ee who is set free will not plan an at­tack against the na­tion, “just as we can­not prom­ise that any U.S. crim­in­al re­leased back in­to so­ci­ety will nev­er com­mit an­oth­er crime.”

The re­tired gen­er­al says main­tain­ing the de­ten­tion cen­ter threatens na­tion­al se­cur­ity be­cause it “val­id­ates every neg­at­ive per­cep­tion of the United States.”

In 2009, Lehnert pub­licly ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment with re­ports of poor treat­ment of de­tain­ees by U.S. mil­it­ary per­son­nel. For him, hu­mane treat­ment was top pri­or­ity the day the pris­on camp opened. “I think we lost the mor­al high ground,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “For those who do not think much of the mor­al high ground, that is not that sig­ni­fic­ant. But for those who think our stand­ing in the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity is im­port­ant, we need to stand for Amer­ic­an val­ues. You have to walk the walk, talk the talk.”

Pres­id­ent Obama prom­ised to do just that in 2008 when, as a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate, he vowed to close the pris­on if elec­ted. Shortly after he was sworn in, he signed an ex­ec­ut­ive or­der man­dat­ing that Guantanamo be closed with­in a year, but a genu­ine push nev­er got off the ground, prompt­ing many to call Obama’s plan a “broken prom­ise.

This week, Con­gress is scram­bling to pass a de­fense au­thor­iz­a­tion bill be­fore the hol­i­days, one that in­cludes lan­guage al­low­ing the pres­id­ent more flex­ib­il­ity to trans­fer de­tain­ees from Guantanamo to oth­er coun­tries. To law­makers, the re­tired gen­er­al says, “it is time to close Guantanamo.”

MOST READ
What We're Following See More »
SHARES THEIR LOVE STORY
Bill Clinton Gets Personal in Convention Speech
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” started Bill Clinton. In his speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton brought a personal touch, telling parallel stories of his relationship with Hillary Clinton and the work she has done throughout her career. He lauded the Democratic nominee for her career of work, touching on her earliest days of advocacy for children and those with disabilities while in law school, her role as Secretary of State, and her work in raising their daughter, Chelsea. Providing a number of anecdotes throughout the speech, Clinton built to a crescendo, imploring the audience to support his wife for president. "You should elect her, she'll never quit when the going gets tough," he said. "Your children and grandchildren will be grateful."

LOUD “BLACK LIVES MATTER” CHANTS RING OUT
Mothers Of The Movement Endorse Hillary Clinton
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

A coalition of mothers whose children lost their lives in high profile cases across the country, known as the Mothers Of The Movement, were greeted with deafening chants of "Black Lives Matter" before telling their stories. The mothers of Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin spoke for the group, soliciting both tears and applause from the crowd. "Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother," said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. "And that's why, in the memory of our children, we are imploring you — all of you — to vote this election day."

SOUTH DAKOTA GIVES HER CLINCHING DELEGATES
Clinton Officially Democratic Nominee for President
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

With the South Dakota delegation announcing its delegate count, Hillary Rodham Clinton is officially the Democratic nominee for president, surpassing the 2383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Clinton is expected to speak at the convention on Thursday night and officially accept the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many People Protested in Philly Yesterday?
12 hours ago
THE ANSWER

About 5,500, according to official estimates. "The Monday figures marked a large increase from the protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where even the largest protests only drew a couple of hundred demonstrators. But it’s a far cry from the 35,000 to 50,000 that Philadelphia city officials initially expected."

Source:
NO BATTLEGROUND STATES LEAN TRUMP
NY Times’ Upshot Gives Clinton 68% Chance to Win
12 hours ago
THE LATEST

Only a day after FiveThirtyEight's Now Cast gave Donald Trump a 57% chance of winning, the New York Times' Upshot fires back with its own analysis that shows Hillary Clinton with a 68% chance to be the next president. Its model "calculates win probabilities for each state," which incorporate recent polls plus "a state's past election results and national polling." Notably, all of the battleground states that "vote like the country as a whole" either lean toward Clinton or are toss-ups. None lean toward Trump.

Source:
×