Congressional Briefing Urges Obama to Use His Authority to Close Guantánamo

Briefing Follows Senator Levin’s Call for Obama to Use “National

Security Waiver” at His Disposal to Release Cleared Men

Washington DC — Today, as the majority of men detained at Guantánamo enter their fourth month on hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention, the Center for Constitutional Rights participated in a congressional briefing on Guantánamo titled, “From Crisis to Solution.”

The briefing was co-sponsored by Members of Congress James P. Moran and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, The Constitution Project, The New America Foundation, and The National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Panelists included CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, along with Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson who served as Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Brigadier General David R. Irvine, and the ordained Presbyterian minister Dr. George Hunsinger. It was moderated by Kristine Huskey, counsel on Rasul v. Bush (2004) and Boumediene v. Bush (2008).

This congressional briefing occurred the day after Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin made public a letter he wrote President Obama to urge him to appoint a high-level official in the White House to advance the transfer of men detained at Guantánamo. In his letter, Senator Levin also made clear that Congress has granted President Obama the authority he needs to close Guantánamo, and that it is up to the president to use this authority to meet his stated commitment to closing the prison camp.

Pardiss Kebriaei, senior staff attorney at CCR, said in her testimony today, “Some of our clients have said they would rather die than live like this – in perpetual detention after 11 years, in now inhuman conditions. But their hunger strikes are not acts of suicide. They are acts of last resort to be heard, and for release.”

She later commented, “We came today to urge President Obama to use the certification and waiver process created by Congress to transfer detained men, starting with the 86 men who have been cleared for release by the Obama administration itself. Congress has granted President Obama the tools and power he needs to end indefinite detention and close Guantánamo. He cannot place the blame on Congress for the fact that 166 men still remain at Guantánamo. He has the power to resolve this crisis, and he must use it to close Guantánamo.”

To read the complete testimony click here.