Transcript: Testimony by Rep. Mike Pompeo on closing Guantanamo – July 24, 2013

Partial transcript of the testimony by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) on “Closing Guantanamo: The National Security, Fiscal and Human Rights Implications.” The hearing was held before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on July 24, 2013.

…I agree with Mr. Smith only so far as Al Qaeda is absolutely very much inspired.

I was at Guantanamo Bay this past May, and I want to dispel a couple of facts right up front about the situation on the ground.

First, every American should be proud by the integrity shown by U.S. military personnel caring for these detainees. Their work is difficult but they bring the highest honor and care to the work they do there with members of the Joint Task Force GTMO.

Second, there are no human rights violations occurring at Guantanamo Bay. [Crowd shouts] There is no doubt that the detainees are held in conditions that meet or surpass the standards provided for under the Geneva Conventions. In fact, given the safe and secure that Gitmo provides, most detainees maintain significantly more freedom of movement and activity than they would in a maximum security U.S. prison. They have access to gym equipment, educational materials, entertainment, and top-rate medical and dental care. The health care matches the level of care received by U.S. military personnel.

I’d be remiss given the situation to talk a little bit about the current hunger strike there. It’s a political stunt. It’s orchestrated at least in part by counsels for the detainees and should not be rewarded. Claims that the efforts by our guards to force-feed Gitmo detainees currently refusing nutrition are inhumane and should be ceased is [sic] simply wrong. The methods used by military personnel to feed those detainees who wish not to feed themselves meet court-approved standards and are carefully monitored by medical personnel and those in command. It is right to continue to provide these detainees nutrition.

I want to talk about the constitutionality of Gitmo. Some folks continue to question it. We have to start with the basic fact. We continue to be at war with Al Qaeda and associated extremist groups who daily seek to kill Americans. So long as these groups fight us, we remain at war. And as the Supreme Court made clear in Hamdi and as courts have confirmed many times since, the capture and detention of enemy combatants is a necessary incident to the conduct of this war. There is no question about the constitutionality of the detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Let’s talk about the merits – the policy concerns surrounding it. First of all, current detainees have been off the battlefield for some time yet they may well continue to provide valuable intelligence to U.S. intelligence collectors. But we shouldn’t focus just on those who are there today. As I said, we are still engaged in a counter-terrorism battle all around the globe that continue to need to have a secure location in which to detain captured enemy combatants remains. The intelligence collection that can occur at this location is enormous and central to our efforts to continue to identify, capture additional enemy combatants, and in fact defeat our enemy.

I just returned from a trip to Afghanistan as well and I can assure you there are many folks there that the option set would be to either kill or capture, and we will serve our national security interests far better if we are able to capture them.

We talk about options. What are the alternatives? We could release Gitmo detainees to other third-party countries, but as I heard Sen. Cruz speak about, we have a very high recidivism rate. Whether it’s 10% or 15% or as studies have shown one-quarter of those detainees, I can assure you that we will have American service members killed as a result of releasing detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

Indeed, just within this past week, Al Qaeda conducted a major attack on two facilities in Iraq, releasing 500, some of whom were senior Al Qaeda warriors. The transfer to third parties is simply not a reasonable solution to keeping America safe.

Moreover, transfer to third parties also presents another risk – a human rights risk. Namely, that the nations to which we send those detainees will torture those folks. We cannot permit that.

Second – the other option to bring them back to the United States. Twice within the last 48 hours, the United States House of Representatives members have offered amendments to defense appropriations bill; twice those bills have been defeated. The American people and their representatives in the House of Representatives understand that bringing these detainees back to the United States is not a workable solution.

Lastly, I want to talk about the damage that has been done to national security as a result of this administration’s policies and rhetoric surrounding Guantanamo Bay.

After four years in office, the President continues to insist that we pursue a political goal and then later figure out a way to meet the real mission. The President knows – he knows full well – indeed, he has spoken about it that not all of those prisoners are in any way, shape, or form transferrable or returnable, including the 9/11 five. No one believes they’re going to come back including the President. Yet, he continues to use the rhetoric of Guantanamo Bay closure.

You know, the President seems far more concerned, in my judgment, with mollifying the grievances of Al Qaeda than defending against the real dangers enemy combatants pose to the American people. By insisting on a catch-and-release counter-terrorism strategy or a kill terrorism strategy, the President continues to do great harm to America’s national security interests.


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