Congressional Record: June 13, 2005 (Senate)
Page S6390-S6391                        

                             GUANTANAMO BAY

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, it has been well over 3 years since the 
administration began to hold detainees at the U.S. Naval Base in 
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The first batch of then only 20 detainees arrived 
in January 2002. There are now more than 500 detainees at Guantanamo. I 
cannot give you an exact number because our own Government refused to 
tell the American people an exact number.
  In fact, there is much that we do not know about our Government's 
activities at Guantanamo. From the start, the administration's answer 
to every question regarding this secret detention facility has been: 
Trust us. Trust us that we know the law and that we will comply with 
it. Trust us to treat detainees humanely and in accordance with our 
laws and treaties and the great and wonderful traditions of the United 
States. Trust us that Guantanamo will make Americans safer. More than 3 
years later, the one thing we know for sure about Guantanamo is that 
any trust we may have had was misplaced.
  First, the administration either did not know or did not follow the 
law. The list of reversals of this administration's policies and 
practices at Guantanamo is long. From the Supreme Court's rejection of 
the claim that Guantanamo Bay is a land of legal limbo or, as one 
administration official said, ``the legal equivalent of outer space,'' 
to a recent district court holding that the current military commission 
regulations are unlawful, there is much that needs attention and 
  Secondly, the administration has not lived up to its promise to treat 
detainees humanely. Even with the administration's continuing 
stonewalling against any independent investigation into the 
mistreatment of detainees, we continue to learn of more abuses on an 
almost daily basis. Does anybody question that if American POWs were 
being treated in this way, we would have demonstrations in the streets 
of America, and everybody from the President down through every single 
Member of Congress would be up in arms and calling for changes? But 
when these actions take place at Guantanamo, the administration refuses 
to acknowledge any wrongdoing. The dangerous implications that this 
posture has for our own troops and citizens becomes more obvious every 
  Third, and this is the bottom line: Guantanamo has not made our 
country safer. It is increasingly clear that the administration's 
policies have seriously damaged our reputation in the world, and they 
are making us less safe. The stain of Guantanamo has become the primary 
recruiting tool for our enemies. President Bush often speaks of 
spreading Democratic values across the Middle East, but Guantanamo is 
not a reflection of the values that he has encourages other nations to 
adopt. The United States has often criticized other nations for 
operating secret prisons where detainees are hidden away and denied any 
meaningful opportunity to contest their detention. Now we have our own 
such prisons. Even if the administration fails to see the hypocrisy of 
this situation, I can assure you, the rest of the world does not.
  Guantanamo Bay, in addition to Abu Ghraib, is a national disgrace and 
international embarrassment to us, to our country's ideals, and a 
festering threat to our security. It is a legal black hole that 
dishonors the principles of a great nation. America was once very 
rightly viewed as a leader in human rights and the rule of law, but 
Guantanamo has drained our leadership, our credibility, and the world's 
good will for America at alarming rates. Even our closest allies cannot 
condone the policies embraced by this Government, not to mention the 
significant damage that has been caused by allegations and proven 
incidents of detainee abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. These 
are not the policies of a great and good nation such as ours. This is 
not the American system of justice that I have grown up honoring and 
  Within the last 2 weeks, I was at a meeting of NATO parliamentarians. 
These are parliamentarians from the countries that are our closest 
allies. They are members of the NATO alliance with the United States 
and proud to be part of that alliance. Every one of them I spoke with 
said the same thing: How can America continue to be a beacon for 
democracy with the stain of Guantanamo? Some of these countries were 
countries that originally had been behind the Iron Curtain. With the 
efforts of this administration and the Clinton administration, we see 
them now as proud members of NATO. They look to the United States for 
leadership, and they ask us: Why Guantanamo?
  The 9/11 Commission understood that military strength alone is not 
sufficient to defend our Nation against terrorism. There has to be a 
role for working cooperatively with the rest of the world. In its 
report, the Commission said that the Government ``must define what the 
message is, what it stands for. We should offer an example of moral 
leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by 
the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors.'' 
Guantanamo Bay is not the way to do this.
  The administration got itself into this mess because it refused to 
accept Congress as a partner in its so-called war on terror and 
insisted on acting unilaterally. It would not even involve Congress, 
even though Congress is controlled by members of the President's party. 
Following the start of combat in Afghanistan in October 2001, I urged 
President Bush to work with Congress to fashion appropriate rules and 
procedures for detaining and punishing suspected terrorists. All of us 
agree, if you have terrorists, if it is proven they are terrorists, 
they should be detained and punished. As I noted at the time, our 
Government is at its strongest when the executive and legislative 
branches of Government act in concert. Unfortunately, the President was 
determined to go it alone.

  Up until now, this Republican-led Congress has been content to go 
along for the ride. As the administration dug itself deeper and deeper 
into a hole, we stood idly by. Instead of providing checks and 
balances, we simply wrote one blank check after another.
  This has to change. The Constitution provides that Congress, not the 
President, has the power to ``make Rules concerning Captures on Land 
and Water.'' Congress, not the President, has the power to ``define and 
punish Offenses against the Law of Nations.'' And perhaps most 
importantly, Congress, not the President, has the power of the purse. 
Maybe each one of us should take a few moments and reread the 
Constitution that we are sworn to uphold.
  What is the administration's plan for Guantanamo Bay, assuming there 
is one? What does the administration intend to do with the more than 
500 detainees still imprisoned there? How many will be released and 
when? How many will be charged and tried and when?
  The administration consistently insists that these detainees pose a 
threat to the safety of Americans. The Vice President said that the 
other day. If that is true, then one would have to assume we have 
credible evidence to support it. If there is such evidence, then let's 
prosecute these people. If we have the evidence, prosecute them.
  But we also know that some of the detainees have been wrongly 
detained. I suspect there are others who have not yet been released 
against whom the evidence is weak at best. It is one thing if they are 
being detained in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. But if not, 
they do not belong there.
  Guantanamo Bay is causing immeasurable damage to our reputation as a 
defender of democracy and beacon of human rights around the world. It 

[[Page S6391]]

becoming a legal black hole, a rallying cry for our enemies, fueling 
hostilities against us and our policies.
  We have always been able to say that those who strike out against us 
do not uphold the rule of law as we do. We have always been able to 
point out that the kind of actions they carry out are horrible, 
horrific. And every one of us, Democrat and Republican, have found them 
abhorrent and have said so.
  Yet the administration has not articulated a coherent plan to repair 
the damage. Every one of us knows from what we hear around the world 
that we have been damaged by Guantanamo. Why carry out acts that do not 
follow our own laws, our own Constitution, our own tradition? We need a 
plan from the administration to repair this damage. The Congress has 
abdicated its oversight responsibility for far too long. The 
Administration has placed this nation in an untenable situation, and it 
is time for Congress to demand a way out.
  Mr. President, as I said, this doesn't reflect the feeling of just 
the Democratic Senator from Vermont. Similar expressions have been made 
by Republicans and Democrats, leading people in this country, people I 
respect greatly, who point out what we all know--and maybe we don't 
like to talk about it--Guantanamo is a blot on the conscience of 
America--a good and great conscience, one that has been a shining 
beacon to so many countries. Let's not allow this blot. Let's take the 
steps necessary to erase it.