Sen. Harkin speaking about the importance of the rule of law at the ACLU’s rally for habeas rights.
Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa discussing his proposed legislation on closing the Guantanamo detention facility. We talked for quite a while about the Bush Administration’s utter disregard for the rule of law and for the human rights principles that America has championed for years. Our nation’s standing in the world has suffered for it – and it is going to take enormous efforts to rebuild our relationships with allies and our nation’s reputation. It is going to be a very long road back from the Bush years.
As Sen. Harkin said to me, it is well past time that America “stepped back from operating outside the rule of law,” and lived up to our values instead of hypocritically becoming the very thing we say we fight against.
Sen. Harkin is currently working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and a number of others, including Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Barack Obama (D-IL), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), on an amendment to the next defense bill, requiring closure of Gitmo and the transfer of prisoners held therein to facilities where they could receive a fair and full trial on any charges that ought to have been filed years ago, if at all.
Sen. Harkin needs some help, though, in pushing this legislation further down the road of consideration — so please contact your Senators and ask them to support S. 1469 as it moves through the Senate Armed Services Committee and into the full Senate.
Further, let your Senators know that whomever is nominated as the next Attorney General, the nominee must commit to supporting closure of Guantanamo. You can push that along by signing this petition for Sen. Harkin. The next Attorney General must be someone who is committed to the rule of law — not to a unilateral executive who can violate the law at will. As Sen. Harkin said to me, it is impossible for the next AG to support the rule of law and indefinite detention at Guantanamo without a full, fair trial. The Kafka-esque treatment of these prisoners held in all of our names must end, because the damage being done to the reputation of the US, and the negative impact on our ability to fight the root causes of terrorism, are making us less safe.
This is personal for Sen. Harkin, who worked as a staffer on the Hill uncovering atrocities on Con Son Island in Vietnam, and American complicity in that torture and inhumane treatment:
…“As a young staffer on the Hill, I helped to expose the tiger cages at Con Son Island, where Viet Cong and North Vietnamese prisoners, as well as civilian opponents of the war, were being held incommunicado, tortured and killed with the full knowledge and sanction of the U.S. government. I believe there are disturbing parallels between what transpired on Con Son Island nearly four decades ago and what has happened at Guantanamo in recent years.
In both cases, prisons were deliberately set up on remote islands to limit scrutiny and restrict access. In both cases, detainees were not classified as prisoners of war, expressly to deny them the protections of the Geneva Conventions. In both cases, detainees were deprived of any right to due process, judicial review, or a fair trial. And in both cases, when the mistreatment of detainees was exposed, the United States was accused of hypocrisy, of betraying its most sacred values and violating international law. Now is the time to reclaim America’s moral authority and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”
The numbers on Gitmo as it is currently operating are as follows:
There are currently about 375 individuals held at Guantanamo. About 80 of them have been cleared for release, according to the Defense Department. The Administration has stated that it intends to bring charges against no more than 60 to 80 of the remaining detainees. Fourteen “high-value” detainees were transferred to Guantanamo last summer from CIA “black sites,” and another such detainee was sent to Guantanamo from CIA custody since then.
Jane Mayer has done some exceptional reporting on Gitmo for the New Yorker. This article from 2005 details a wealth of informtion on conduct there, and is good background material for those who are interested in knowing more. As does this follow-up interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. Mayer also did a haunting book review for the WaPo in 2006 of one detainee’s account of his time at Gitmo. And her most recent piece for the New Yorker on CIA black sites and prisoner detentions is infuriating and nauseating at the same time.
It is well past time that we closed the book on a chapter of American history that never should have been written in the first place. This is an excellent place to start.
You can contact your Senators via these toll free numbers (H/T to katymine for finding these):
1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 459 – 1887
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437