War on Terror
War on Terror

McCain Wrong to Criticize Obama Over Guantanamo Closing

| by The ACLU
NEW YORK – Following President Obama's historic order calling for the closure of Guantánamo Bay detention center and suspension of the military commissions, some critics have argued that detainees held there cannot be transferred to U.S. prisons, while others allege they will likely turn to terrorism once sent to foreign countries. Both positions are meant to obstruct the closure of the facility and a return to the rule of law.

Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, responds:

John McCain's criticism of President Obama shows that the Republicans are more inclined to continue with 'politics as usual' rather than give America a fresh start. Immediately after President Obama took the courageous step of ordering the closure of the illegal detention camp at Guantánamo, a chorus of Bush administration apologists, led by Senator John McCain, is already singing the same tune: 'not in my backyard.'

Senator McCain and his allies are totally off the mark and at odds with McCain's own campaign pledge to close Guantánamo and move its prisoners to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The federal prison system has proven time and again that it is capable of holding convicted terrorists including Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik convicted in the first World Trade Center attacks; John Walker Lindh, the 'American Taliban'; and Richard Reid, known as the 'shoe bomber.'

Reports of detainees released from U.S. custody rejoining al-Qaeda or 'returning to the battlefield' must also be taken with a grain of salt. If the alleged terrorists re-joined al-Qaeda, it obviously happened on George W. Bush's watch. Moreover, Guantánamo and the sham military commissions are more likely to produce terrorists – both those detained in Guantánamo and elsewhere – than adherence to the rule of law and a return to American values. It was the Bush administration's detention and torture policies that made us less safe and more reviled by the Muslim world. Former President Bush's torture and detention policies certainly radicalized many individuals across the Muslim world, and President Obama's executive orders are a first step to defusing that hatred and giving us an America we can be proud of again.

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