Close Gitmo

Guantánamo is a stain on our Constitution and undermines America’s standing in the world.

It is time to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. It has proven ineffective in bringing our enemies to justice, incited those who would do us harm, diminished our standing in the world and weakened our national security. Its closure has been called for by the current administration and by leaders of both parties. Even President Bush said in 2006 that he would like to close the facility. No one contends that dealing with the detainees will be easy, but I support the president in his efforts to bring them to justice in a way that is true to our values and strengthens our security. But there are two issues of concern: Congress's stripping of funding for the closure of Guantánamo and the fact that there will continue to be detainees held without trial.

I proudly stand with the president in rejecting the cynicism that Guantánamo has come to represent-a cynicism that insists that our legal system, the bulwark of our liberty, is not up to the task of trying terrorists; that our domestic prisons, including the U.S. military's, are too weak to hold them; and that our most sacred ideals are mere niceties, too frail to be relied upon in dangerous times.

As an admiral, I led this nation's fighting men and women into harm's way in defense of the United States-in defense not only of American citizens, but of the beliefs that we hold dear and that define us as a nation. We knew that our strength came not just from the ships and planes of the fleet, but also from the flag that we sailed under-a flag that has inspired our nation to become as respected as it is powerful and has rallied allies to our side throughout our history. Over the past eight years, as I have served in both the navy and in Congress, I have watched the legal black hole at Guantánamo erode our moral standing, weakening our hand in diplomacy in all corners of the world and providing al-Qaeda and other extremists with propaganda for a new generation of terror. On the other hand, when I served on President Clinton's National Security Council, I saw the positive and lasting impact the United States can have diplomatically when we are respected as a leader in the international community. No prison will ever serve the interests of this nation if it breeds beyond its walls more enemies than it could ever hold within them.

Rightfully, the Supreme Court ruled last year that the detainees held at Guantánamo were entitled to habeas-corpus review. This ruling ensured that the cases against those we hold there receive such a stringent review by a U.S. federal court, rather than solely by military commissions-which have had their impartiality widely challenged, even by their own former chief prosecutor, who resigned in protest in 2007.

Even with strengthened legal protections and review, we still must close the prison at Guantánamo. The facility has become too damaging a symbol. Our soldiers and those in our intelligence services have demonstrated a remarkable ability to capture or eliminate high-ranking Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. But in a world where technology allows a handful of the disaffected to create havoc, the battle against violent extremism must begin in the hearts and minds of vulnerable children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and other troubled parts of the world. Terrorist ranks will continue to be replenished until we can reestablish our standing as a just nation that is not at war with Islam or the Arab world, but is-as the president said at his inauguration-a friend and defender of those who want nothing more than to live with peace and dignity. The shuttering of Guantánamo is an essential counterterrorism tactic in our broader strategy of combating violent extremism.

As such, it was disappointing to see my colleagues strip funding for the closing of the prison at Guantánamo from this year's war-supplemental-spending bill. Although I share their belief that a plan for relocating detainees must be comprehensive, we should not be daunted by the prospect of imprisoning some of them in our country's supermax detention facilities. These institutions house some of the most dangerous, hardened criminals in the world, including Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, and Zacharias Moussaoui, who was convicted of conspiracy for his role in the 9/11 hijackings. Both are held at the ADX supermax in Florence, Colorado. Not a single inmate has ever escaped from a supermax facility.

While I am confident the president is seeking a proper balance between our national security and our ideals, I was concerned by the announcement that there would continue to be a class of detainees held without trial. I understand the procedural difficulty of trying suspects with the often limited evidence that is obtained from the battlefield and the risk that dangerous detainees could be acquitted. But it is fundamentally against our American principles-and our Constitution-to throw a man into a hole without legal recourse. This practice contradicts our jurisprudence and is a detriment to our foreign interests. I believed this when I served as the first director of "Deep Blue," the navy's antiterrorism unit, and I continue to believe it today.

Under the traditional laws of war, prisoners of war can be held throughout the duration of hostilities. But this is not a conventional conflict that will end with the toppling of statues or signing of treaties. There must be metrics for progress to assure our citizens and the world that our nation does not hold people in a state of legal purgatory, just as we must assure the public that we have a comprehensive strategy to eliminate al-Qaeda that does not entail a perpetual state of armed conflict.

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