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McConnell Statement on One-year Anniversary of Administration's Order to Close Gitmo


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement Friday regarding the President's announcement one year ago today that he planned to close the secure detention center at Guantanamo Bay:

"One year ago today, the President announced his intention to close the secure detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. He didn't provide any details about how the administration planned to deal with the detainees who are housed there. He just said it would be closed. A year later, it's clear that closing Guantanamo was a lot more complicated than the administration thought. It's also increasingly clear that this facility plays a uniquely important role in the War on Terror.

"Most recently, the attempted Christmas Day bombing should have been a stark reminder to all of us of why we need Guantanamo. We need a place to put enemy combatants like the Christmas Day Bomber and we need a place to interrogate them, whether we caught them on a battlefield in Kandahar or on an airplane in Detroit.

"Guantanamo serves both these purposes well: It's a safe and secure, state-of-the-art facility where we can detain enemy combatants far from our communities. Some we hold indefinitely. Others we hold until we deem them safe for transfer to another country. Still others we can hold until we try them in military commissions right there at Guantanamo. So we already have a place to put these detainees. Why would we want to create a new one?

"The administration's answer to this question is that by closing Guantanamo we'd quiet our critics at home and in Europe who view it as an affront. They also say that we'd be removing it as a propaganda tool for Al Qaeda. But both arguments are absurd, since the policy that's most offensive to our critics is the policy of indefinite detention, something the administration has already indicated it will continue either way. And the notion that Al Qaeda would be satisfied if we simply moved Guantanamo to the Midwest is laughable.

"Al Qaeda terrorists were at war with us long before we started putting them in Gitmo. They won't lay down their arms or run out of grievances if we move it to Illinois. If it's not Guantanamo, it's something else.

"So it's hard to see how moving Guantanamo would make any difference to our critics either at home or abroad. But it's easy to see how it would make America less safe -- starting with the fact that the moment terrorists set foot on U.S. soil they would likely gain many of the same rights and privileges of U.S. citizens, including possibly the right to sue their way to freedom. This alone should be reason enough to keep them off our shores and far away from our communities.

"Terrorists don't deserve the same legal rights that the Americans they're targeting enjoy. We should be focused on stopping them, not defending them. And Americans would rather their tax dollars be spent preventing attacks from terrorists than providing them with government lawyers.

"But of course all this is academic, since the administration still has yet to offer any details about its plan -- details that are more important than ever given the increasing rate at which those who are released from Gitmo are returning to the fight against us. Whether it's recidivism rates or an attempted bombing over a major American city, the way we handle terrorists and terror suspects matters as much now as ever. And closing Guantanamo without a plan would suggest a dangerous lack of appreciation for that. The fact is, as long as we remain at war with Al Qaeda and until we hear a better option, Guantanamo is the perfect place for terrorists."

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