Stay the course on closing the facilities. Less than 24 hours after the Senate overwhelmingly rejected the president’s request for funds to shut down Gitmo - mainly because the administration had no plan - Mr. Obama made clear he intends to continue down his chosen path.
Never mind that FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said in a Senate hearing last Wednesday that moving detainees to American prisons would bring risks, including “the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States,” or that the media report that an unreleased Pentagon report shows 1 in 7 of the 534 detainees released from Gitmo have returned to terrorism or militant activity, resulting in a nearly 14 percent recidivism rate.
The fact is that Mr. Obama never had a plan for what to do with these detainees - where they would be held, the security required, the cost of moving and housing the detainees at other facilities, the legal system under which they would be held and tried, and the impact on our national security. The president made a “hasty” decision, as White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has made clear, to close this facility without any regard to the national-security implications.
Yet, as Mr. Obama noted in his speech, if the detention facility at Gitmo is closed, some U.S. domestic or overseas prisons will have to house these detainees while they await disposition. Bringing these dangerous individuals to the United States, in military or civilian prisons, would not only require a significant investment and restructuring of our existing detention facilities, but also would place America and its citizens at risk.
A better solution already exists. Gitmo is a state-of-the-art prison that provides a safe, secure and humane location to hold detainees away from population centers. It provides the maximum security required to prevent escape, as well as multiple levels of confinement opportunities based on the compliance of the detainee.
I visited Gitmo for the third time in February and saw this valuable asset firsthand. There are on average two lawyers for every detainee. There are 127 doctors, nurses and medical technicians dedicated to caring for and maintaining the health of each detainee. The current treatment and oversight exceed those at any maximum-security prison in the world. There is no superior alternative to this prison for these individuals.
Furthermore, Mr. Obama’s description of Gitmo as “a mess” and a “misguided experiment” were particularly hasty and thoughtless. Those comments are a direct insult to our servicemen and -women who have served and are serving on the front lines at Gitmo. These service personnel are trained to the highest military standards, and they professionally carry out one of the most difficult missions in our military. Despite being assaulted daily, both verbally and physically, they continuously ensure that each and every detainee is cared for safely and humanely.
They track and ensure each detainee’s cultural and dietary needs; they ensure that detainee social and religious needs are met; and they ensure that each detainee receives medical care that exceeds the care we provide to our own service members. Numerous government and nongovernmental organizations have visited Gitmo, and all have concluded that the conditions of confinement there are in conformity with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and meet the highest international standards.
A recent review also found that the conditions are in conformity with Common Article 3 and that there was no evidence of its violation. Furthermore, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. provided a glowing report of what he saw during his recent visit to Gitmo and stated that closing the prison would be an extensive and difficult process.
Most important, Americans don’t want Gitmo’s terrorists in their neighborhoods and have raised their voices against this unthinkable decision. In fact, 26 states have legislation pending to prevent detainees from being held in their states. Any plan to transfer or release detainees from Gitmo must ensure the safety and security of the United States and its citizens, but no plan exists, nor will any plan likely ever exist.
It is time for the president to make a choice and inform the American people: Either keep using this state-of-the-art facility in its current capacity or present a viable alternative that does not endanger our citizens by bringing terrorists to American soil. I, for one, do not want American towns to be the next home to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, is the senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.