[Congressional Record: January 22, 2009 (Senate)]
EXECUTIVE ORDER CLOSING DETENTION FACILITIES
Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I once again come to the floor to discuss an
issue that goes directly to who we are as a country and what we stand
Specifically, I want to comment on the executive orders President
Obama signed today to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility
within a year, close secret prisons operated by the CIA, and review the
procedures for detaining and trying accused terrorists. In so doing, he
sends a long-overdue message not only to the world, but also to the
American people here at home, reaffirming our values as Americans and
our commitment to the rule of law.
As we speak, some 245 individuals are still being held as enemy
combatants at Guantanamo Bay, and about 100 in secret prisons around
the world, though we do not even know for sure. Several independent
sources have alleged that these detainees have suffered from abuse.
All of the information we have indicates that most, if not all, of
these people have engaged in a host of violent actions directed at the
United States. They are not misguided innocents, but rather men
committed to harming us. I rise today not to defend them and their
actions in any way; they must be punished to the full extent of the
Rather, I rise to urge exactly that, the application of our great
body of law for dealing with dangerous people intent on harming us.
Indeed, some in our Government have failed to apply the law and failed
to obey it.
According to a Red Cross report, prisoners in Guantanamo Bay were
subjected to ``cruel, inhumane and degrading'' treatment that is
``tantamount to torture.'' FBI agents have reported that many of those
held at Guantnamo Bay were chained to the floor in a fetal
position for 18 hours or more, and were subject to 100-degree heat and
freezing cold. The CIA's secret facilities have never been inspected,
so we don't know how prisoners have been treated in them.
These abuses are not just morally wrong, they are violations of
American and international law. They weaken respect for the rule of law
abroad and subject American citizens to greater risks of unlawful
detention and torture in foreign countries. And they weaken our
security even as they undermine our democratic ideals.
Guantanamo and the CIA's secret prisons has been an international
embarrassment, a symbol of abuse and the breakdown of law, which is why
I and others have come to this floor so often to discuss our moral
responsibility to close them.
To be absolutely clear, I repeat that those who are a threat to
America, who are guilty of crimes, must and will be punished to the
fullest extent of the law. They must be tried and prosecuted. This
decision is not about protecting those who wish to harm us.
Rather, this decision says, as President Obama did in his inaugural
address this week, that the choice between security and liberty is a
false choice, and we reject it.
As General George Washington answered when his soldiers asked him for
permission to beat their prisoners, ``Treat them with humanity. Let
them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example'' of
And so, I am grateful and relieved that President Obama has acted so
quickly to remedy this very damaging policy.
This is, of course, only the first step. We must remain vigilant in
working with the administration to implement these orders. And there
remain many issues to be decided, from when and how Guantanamo and
other detention facilities are closed to ensuring the interrogation
methods employed by U.S. personnel never again cross the line into
But this is a critical first step toward restoring not only the rule
of law and our Constitution but also our moral authority. Today, we
remind the world and ourselves that everyone is subject to the law and
no one, not you, not I, stands above it.
I am convinced that today's orders will better secure our Nation and
allow us to more effectively prevent, detain, and prosecute those who
would seek to harm us.
I applaud President Obama for his decision to act without delay on
these most important issues.