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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. ANDREWS. I thank my friend for yielding.

There is more agreement here than meets the eye. I think everyone in this Chamber agrees that no person who is a dangerous threat to the people of the United States should be released. I think most people in this Chamber agree that, if the Government of Yemen is unprepared to effectuate adequate security means, then no person should be released to Yemen.

The question here is who gets to make that decision. In this instance, the people who know the most about this--the leaders of our intelligence community, of our military, of our law enforcement community--have reviewed the specific details of 56 cases, and they have concluded based upon their review of those details that the right thing to do is to release these detainees to Yemen if and when they are satisfied that Yemen's security measures are appropriate.

The question here really comes down to whether this judgment should be made by the Members of this body, who have varying degrees of knowledge about this issue--including the gentlelady, who has very diligently learned a lot about this issue and cares a lot about it--or whether the decision should be made by people whom we have entrusted with the defense of our country, who have developed specific, granular, factual expertise about this question. I believe this is a case where the proper decision belongs with those experts, where the proper decision belongs with those who know the most about this matter. Rigidly limiting the options of those experts is a mistake.

So, although I believe we share the same intentions here, we don't share the same view of this amendment. I believe that the decision should be made by those best positioned to make it. If and when they determine that security conditions in Yemen are appropriate, then the decision to release should be made. In my view, that's the right process. I urge a ``no'' vote on this amendment.


Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend for yielding.

First, let me say that I think we all agree that our servicemembers who served us at Guantanamo have done a tremendous job and have brought great honor to our country. We thank and respect all of them.

I also believe that there is unanimity here that if someone is a credible threat to the United States, they should be detained, tried, and brought to justice. The question is where to do that.

Why should it be Guantanamo? Do defendants have greater rights if they are transferred from Guantanamo to a place in the United States? The Supreme Court has said, no, they don't. So there's no tactical advantage in a trial.

Are they more likely to escape if they're transferred to the United States? History says ``no.'' The number of escapes from maximum prisons, the supermax prisons, in the United States has been zero.

Is it less expensive to hold them at Guantanamo? Most certainly not. The average cost of incarcerating someone in a Federal maximum security supermax prison is $34,000 a year. The cost to the taxpayer of incarcerating someone at Guantanamo is over $1.6 million a year.

Is there some strategic advantage globally to holding these detainees at Guantanamo? The opposite is true. General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, other leaders of our intelligence and military forces have said that Guantanamo is the best recruiting device against the United States, around the world for those who are trying to sell the lie that the United States is an inhumane and unjust place.

There is simply no rationale for an indefinite extension of the problem at Guantanamo. For reasons of security, for reasons of law, for reasons of cost, for reasons of strategic advantage, we should close Guantanamo Bay. That's why I support the Smith amendment.


Mr. ANDREWS. I thank my friend for yielding.

Nothing in this amendment in any way impairs the relationship between a Christian or Jewish or other soldier or servicemember and his or her faith leader. Nothing. Nothing in this amendment impairs the operation of the Chaplain Corps.

What this amendment does is to show respect for the choices made by our servicemembers. My Christianity is an important part of who I am and how I see my life. I don't think that that same right should be denied to a servicemember who does not share my beliefs.

What this amendment says is that, for the thousands of servicemembers who choose a humanist or atheistic philosophy system of life, that they should be able to confide in an adviser who is not a mental health professional.

Going to a mental health professional is a choice that's laden with risk and some controversy for a member of the service. Going to a faith adviser is not.

Depriving those who share the views that Mr. Polis outlined of the chance to go to such an adviser is unequal treatment. It's unworthy of the way we operate.

Nothing in this amendment disrupts the Chaplain Corps, but everything in this amendment respects the rights of our servicemembers. I would urge a ``yes'' vote.


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