Letter to Chairman Smith, Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Rogers, and Ranking Member Inhofe - Closure of Guantanamo Bay Through NDAA


Dear Chairman Smith, Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Rogers, and Ranking Member Inhofe,

Last year, 99 Members of Congress -- many of us among them -- wrote to President Biden urging him to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba once and for all. Since that time, the Administration has made tangible progress toward that end: three detainees have been repatriated; 20 more are approved or otherwise positioned for transfer; and, according to press reports, the Administration is seeking to resolve the remaining, perpetually stalled military commission cases through plea agreements.

As the House and Senate Armed Services Committees draft the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23), we strongly urge you to eliminate annual provisions in the bill that narrow or unnecessarily encumber the Administration's options for closing Guantanamo. Among these provisions are Sections 1033 and 1034 of the FY22 NDAA, which prohibit the transfer of detainees to the United States.

These restrictions serve no national security purpose. The U.S. has a long track record of safely incarcerating individuals convicted on terrorism-related charges. According to James Gondles, Executive Director of the American Correctional Association, "there is no evidence that housing Guantanamo detainees would bring additional attacks, attention, or danger to the United States."

Thanks to the leadership of the House Armed Services Committee, the House of Representatives has voted to repeal these restrictions for three consecutive years. The Committee reported NDAA bills for FY20, FY21, and FY22 that would have eliminated the ban on transferring detainees to the U.S., and each of these bills passed the House, at times with broad bipartisan support. Unfortunately, NDAA Conference Committees have not adopted the House's position and instead have produced legislation that extends these unnecessary restrictions.

We also urge the Committees to assess the existing restrictions and certification requirements that limit the Administration's ability to transfer detainees abroad and to eliminate any bureaucratic obstacles to foreign transfers that do not serve a compelling national security purpose. Because most of the remaining detainees have already been approved for transfer by the relevant national security and intelligence agencies, lifting unnecessary barriers to these transfers is critical to expediting the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

With an astronomical cost of $500 million annually, the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay without charges or trials violates our Constitution, betrays our values, and undermines America's credibility as an advocate for democratic values and the rule of law abroad. Earlier this year, the Chinese government publicly invoked Guantanamo Bay in its anti-U.S. propaganda to deflect criticism of its own human rights abuses. Vladimir Putin recently did the same. We simply cannot allow authoritarian adversaries to continue wielding Guantanamo Bay as a propaganda tool to justify their brutal repression.

As this year's NDAA process moves forward, we strongly urge the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to ensure that the final NDAA for FY23 lifts the ban on transferring Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. and eliminates unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles to transferring detainees abroad. At a time when American global leadership is desperately needed to stem the rising tide of authoritarianism, it is vital that we close Guantanamo Bay once and for all.