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
Add to Briefcase
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.”

What We're Following See More »
DISCUSSES "IMPORTANCE OF THE PARTNERSHIP"
Mnuchin Meets with MBS
16 hours ago
THE LATEST
SAYS HIS DEATH STEMMED FROM A FISTFIGHT
Saudis Admit Khashoggi Killed in Embassy
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Saudi Arabia said Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared more than two weeks ago, had died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified men inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Eighteen men have been arrested and are being investigated in the case, Saudi state-run media reported without identifying any of them. State media also reported that Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials had been dismissed."

Source:
ROGER STONE IN THE CROSSHAIRS?
Mueller Looking into Ties Between WikiLeaks, Conservative Groups
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is scrutinizing how a collection of activists and pundits intersected with WikiLeaks, the website that U.S. officials say was the primary conduit for publishing materials stolen by Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter."

Source:
PROBING COLLUSION AND OBSTRUCTION
Mueller To Release Key Findings After Midterms
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections ... Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice." Mueller has faced pressure to wrap up the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said an official, who would receive the results of the investigation and have "some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released," if he remains at his post.

Source:
PASSED ON SO-CALLED "SAR" REPORTS
FinCen Official Charged with Leaking Info on Manafort, Gates
3 days ago
THE DETAILS
"A senior official working for the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has been charged with leaking confidential financial reports on former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort, Richard Gates and others to a media outlet. Prosecutors say that Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser to FinCEN, photographed what are called suspicious activity reports, or SARs, and other sensitive government files and sent them to an unnamed reporter, in violation of U.S. law."
Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login