Vote Explanation for H.R. 5351 — To prohibit the transfer of any individual detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

“I’ve been in the group that believes it’s in our national interest to close Guantanamo. It creates a psychological scar on our national values” — General Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

I voted against H.R. 5351 because, if passed, this bill would prohibit all federal agencies from using funds to transfer or release detainees held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Departments of Defense, State, a range of national security professionals, legal experts, and counterterrorism specialists have long agreed that keeping the facility open not only violates fundamental precepts of international law, but our democratic values and in fact engenders greater terrorist recruitment. The U.S. Supreme Court has on multiple occasions ruled against the policies used to detain individuals and conduct trials at the facility.

Legitimate, lawful military detention is an important component of extended military campaigns but the Guantanamo detention facility has served to bolster propaganda and popularity of terrorist groups that seek to do harm to the U.S., our citizens, and our military personnel abroad.

The only way to close the facility in a sound manner is to continue the process established through the Department of Defense’s Periodic Review Boards (PRBs) which evaluate the best process, destination, and security measures through which to transfer individuals to their countries of origin (if deemed appropriate), detention in third countries, or to rehabilitation arrangements.

Critics claim the transfer process is fraught with risk, but after the PRB process, a robust security review process exists to approve any proposed transfer before it is effectuated that requires the examination and approval of the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State. Furthermore, the facility is extremely costly — the annual operating cost per remaining detainee at the facility is just under $6 million per year.

For these reasons, I opposed H.R. 5351 and will continue to support closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in a sound manner so it no longer stands as a liability to our national security, a blemish on our national reputation, and a stain on our proudly held values of democracy.