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In Theory: Should the prison at Guantanamo be closed?

October 31, 2013

The Pentagon has appointed an envoy tasked with shutting down the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The prison, which holds terror suspects including those involved in planning the 9/11 attacks, currently holds 164 detainees, 17 of whom are on hunger strike and 84 that the U.S. does not consider a threat.

President Obama promised to close the prison by 2010 but has been stymied by Congress, which has placed funding restrictions on the transfer of detainees and other conditions that make it difficult to move prisoners either to the U.S. or other countries.

A group including the ACLU, the Presbyterian Church and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture recently sent a letter to Obama urging him to close Guantanamo and reminding him of his promise to do so.

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Q: Do you think it's about time Guantanamo was closed down?

 
The idea of a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — an offshore prison for foreign terrorism suspects, where prisoners are not afforded the same rights as they would be if they were within the United States — may have been a valid need in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; but it is an idea whose implementation has gone awry and is now the source of more problems than benefit. Gitmo should be closed.

That we are holding people in prison even though they have been cleared by our government puts us in an untenable international position. It also serves a recruitment tool for the likes of al-Qaeda and other terrorists who would do us harm.

There is also a clear moral and ethical dimension to this — holding suspects (including non U.S. citizens) for indefinite periods of time, without trial or conviction, goes against the ethical and moral grain of our nation, and is certainly against the 4th Amendment. It is even more of a problem for those suspects who have been cleared of any wrong-doing against us, or even worse, those who are innocent.

Those suspects who are a threat to the U.S. should be brought to the mainland U.S., tried, and sentenced accordingly. Those who are cleared or innocent should be released. The dilemma of a prisoner’s home country not wanting an innocent citizen back is a tragic ramification. For such prisoners, the U.S. has a moral obligation to work expeditiously to find somewhere for them to live their lives.

Omar S. Ricci
Muslim
Glendale

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