March 20, 2015

Udall Among Senators to Visit Guantánamo Bay Detention Facilities

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), the Ranking Member of the SASC Subcommittee on Seapower, traveled to U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (GITMO). The senators toured detention facilities, received an intelligence briefing, and met with commanders of Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF-GTMO), as well as other personnel at the detention facility. The senators also talked with legal experts on the ground about the process by which detainees are tried through the military court system.

"My visit today confirmed my full respect for our service members at Guantánamo Bay, and I thank them for their service to protect our nation. But this trip also confirmed my view that the continued operation of Guantánamo Bay prison is a stain on our nation's history and continues to be used as a recruitment tool for terrorist groups worldwide," said Udall, who also serves on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. "I have long called for the prison to be closed, and I'm extremely disappointed that rather than shutting it outright years ago, we are still holding more than 100 detainees awaiting trial or transfer. We must end this sad chapter of American history, and I'll use my position on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to push to close Guantánamo for good."

"I salute the dedication and professionalism of our soldiers serving at Guantánamo Bay. They are admirably performing a difficult task and doing their part to help keep America safe," said Reed. "We need to match their courage and distinction by doing everything we can to uphold American values and bring terrorists who attacked American interests to justice. The GITMO detention facility itself has become a symbolic hindrance to this effort and weakens counter-terrorism cooperation with our allies. It is also incredibly costly to run. Congress should work on a bipartisan basis, in coordination with our military leaders and the Administration, to close GITMO. And Congress should not impose further restrictions that interfere with the military's ability to manage detainees as part of the armed conflict with Al Qaeda and associated forces."

"Today's visit to Guantánamo provides an opportunity to observe detention facility operations and meet with military personnel who despite challenging circumstances serve our country proudly," said Senator Hirono, who also serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "We cannot continue to operate Guantánamo Bay as an indefinite detention facility off U.S. shores. The continued operation of Guantánamo harms our national security interests, costs taxpayers far too much, undermines our role in the world as a human rights leader, and is used as a propaganda tool to recruit extremists. I will continue to work with the president and my colleagues to move forward on a path to close the detention facility at Guantánamo."