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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 minutes.

The 56 inmates that we are talking about at Guantanamo are not the most dangerous terrorists in the world. In fact, the intel community and the Department of Defense determined they were acceptable risks for release back to Yemen, back to their home country. Not everybody that we rounded up and took to Guantanamo, unfortunately, turned out to be the very, very dangerous terrorists that we thought they were.

The problem we confront with these 56 that we've determined are not a grave threat to the country, determining that if there is any minimal threat whatsoever we are simply going to hold them forever is, well, quite frankly, un-American. That is contrary to our values, to say that we are going to hold somebody indefinitely--I gather forever--because we think there might possibly be some risk. That's not the way the Constitution is supposed to work.

More than anything, this amendment restricts the President's flexibility. If the President determines that this is safe, if the intelligence community determines this is safe, if the Defense Department determines this is safe, they ought to have that option. This amendment takes that option away and, once again, makes Gitmo the classic Hotel California: ``You can check in any time you want, but you can never leave.''

We cannot warehouse people forever. We need to give the President options, not restrict them.

There are certification requirements that will always be in place to make sure that the Secretary of Defense, before releasing these people, certifies that he believes it is an acceptable risk. We will have to have that. But I think an absolute prohibition ties the hands of the President in an unhelpful way.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself the balance of my time just to say that I completely agree with the arguments of the gentleman from New Jersey.

It's not a question of whether or not these people should be released. It's a question of who should make that decision. Should Congress make that decision and restrict the President? restrict the intelligence community? restrict the Department of Defense? As the gentleman from Arkansas pointed out, Yemen has been a very capable and helpful partner in the war against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

I believe these decisions are best left to the experts and not to have Congress restrict them and limit their options. With that, I urge opposition to the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself 3 minutes.

This is a very straightforward amendment that simply asks the President to put together a plan to close Guantanamo Bay.

One of the complaints in recent weeks is that we've seen Guantanamo become more and more untenable. It continues to be an international eyesore. Way back in 2007, President George W. Bush said it should be closed. Then-candidate John McCain said it should be closed. As recently as last week, Senator McCain and some other Senators went down and reached that conclusion as well. I think a justifiable criticism of that has come from the other side of the aisle that said, well, you can't close it unless you've got a plan for what to do with the inmates and a plan for how to close it, and that is exactly what this amendment does.

It requires the President within 60 days to come up with a plan for closing Guantanamo Bay prison, and then it also removes all of the restrictions that are in this bill that would stop him from generating that plan.

The bottom line is that we do not need Guantanamo. Guantanamo was set up in the first place in the hopes that, because it wasn't actually on American soil, we could somehow hold people outside the normal bounds of due process and the Constitution, but the Court ruled otherwise. The Court ruled that habeas does apply because Guantanamo is effectively under the control of the United States. So there is no benefit there. There are no greater rights in the U.S. than there are in Guantanamo. We just continue to have this prison that has been set up in a way that the international community cannot stand, and it makes a problem for us in terms of being able to cooperate with our allies and to have the ability to get that cooperation to properly prosecute the war on terror.

So I am simply asking that we put a plan in place so that we can close Guantanamo Bay once and for all--something that Republicans and Democrats alike have said that they've wanted to do. We simply haven't taken the steps necessary.

The prison is becoming very, very expensive. There is $250 million in MilCon contained in this bill just to keep it at a somewhat temporary status. Beyond that, the prospect of the United States' simply warehousing 166 people forever with no end in sight is contrary, again, I think, to our values and to our process.

I really want to emphasize the fact that we have here in the United States well over 300 terrorists incarcerated. There is a notion that somehow we couldn't possibly accommodate them here because of the threat, but we have Ramzi Yousef, and we have the Blind Sheikh. We have some of the most notorious terrorists in the world housed here already safely and securely. That is simply not an argument against doing this. The temporary facilities down at Guantanamo are not sustainable.

Now, I'm not going to rush this and say we've got to close it tomorrow if we don't have a plan. I'm simply requiring the President to come up with that plan, and then am giving him the legislative freedom to develop that plan as what we've done in this bill far too often is to have restricted that.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

A whole bunch of false arguments are being laid out here. As has been clear, no greater constitutional rights come to people in the United States than at Guantanamo. So that's just a phony argument.

The second phony argument is that somehow they can't be held safely. I have a Federal prison in my district. I have an INS detention facility in my district. Frankly, if there was a supermax facility in my district, I would not have a problem with them coming to that district. They should be held. I would hope that all of our supermax facilities, which are holding very, very dangerous people, they better be holding them securely right now.

It's $1.5 million a year versus $34,000. It is an absolute recruitment tool for al Qaeda. Our military leaders--General Petraeus--have all said that this is something that is harmful to U.S. security.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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