The Washington Post
Close Guantánamo for good
The Feb. 17 editorial “How to end the enduring stain that is Guantánamo Bay prison” about the malevolent senselessness of opening Guantánamo, the harm it’s still causing and why it must close, got a lot right. But it was wrong in two key aspects.
First, federal court prosecutions may well have been the “best alternative” to the failed military commissions in 2009, but not in 2023. Leaving aside the ban on U.S. transfers (which by all accounts is here to stay), starting cases over from scratch in a new forum would not serve the interests of justice.
Former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, whose wife died on 9/11, explained recently that “the only guarantee that federal court prosecution brings is years of appeals resulting from the legal morass of the past two decades. This is no resolution.” Other victim family members have said the same and, like Olson, believe pleas are the only way to salvage whatever justice is left to be had.
Second, President Biden does not need Congress’s help to close Guantánamo. The administration can transfer not only the 18 men cleared for release, but also the three men still in the review board process, all three of whom the CIA tortured. Plea deals in some cases could include serving sentences abroad, as several have previously. If a few men must remain, as long as they are serving criminal sentences (versus indefinite detention), in lawful and humane conditions of confinement, the president could legitimately declare Guantánamo closed.
Scott Roehm, Arlington The writer is Washington director for the Center for Victims of Torture.