June 27, 2005

Wyden Statement on Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility

Washington, DC - At a press conference today, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued the following statement regarding his recent trip to Cuba and his visit to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay:Senator [Ben] Nelson [D-Neb.] and I spent three days in Cuba and returned last evening. We spent all of yesterday touring Camp Delta, exploring past practices and observing current ones in dealing with so-called "detainees," and discussing the challenges faced by our military personnel.It is my opinion that closing the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay would result in less accountability in the treatment of those prisoners, not more.The question we have to ask is whom do we trust most to treat these prisoners humanely - Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt, or the United States?Despite multiple instances of unacceptable practices in the past by U.S. personnel at Guantanamo, based on what I learned and observed I strongly prefer the improved procedures and conditions at Camp Delta to the outsourcing of prisoner interrogation to countries with a far less firm commitment to human rights. I feel very good about Kristan Seymour from Portland, Oregon, now a guard at Camp Delta, or Michael Edmondson from Medford, or Nathan Blair from Vancouver, Washington, and I'm not convinced that their counterparts in the countries I just mentioned share the values of these wonderful young people I met with yesterday.There are many things that need to occur to further ensure the proper administration of the men who are being held there, including vigorous and concerted congressional oversight of practices at Guantanamo and other U.S. facilities where similar prisoners are housed. However, the most urgent task now is for Congress to articulate what reasons can justify holding these prisoners, and for Congress to finally establish the precise legal status of these prisoners.I agree with the Bush administration in part - and disagree with the Bush administration in part - with regard to these prisoners.The Bush administration is correct when they say these are unique circumstances. We are in a war and these are not your garden-variety criminal defendants.Where I disagree with the Bush administration is that just because it is a war doesn't mean there shouldn't be any concrete rules. Even in a war, reasonable Democrats and Republicans ought to be able to come together and establish a precise legal status for these and future prisoners; a status that has a concrete basis in law.Finally, I want to stress that we should recognize the very hard work being done by thousands of dedicated servicemen and servicewomen at our base in Guantanamo. In addition to those who operate at Camp Delta, there are thousands of personnel working in a large variety of capacities at the Guantanamo base to keep our nation secure. Base Commander McCoy and the officers at Guantanamo do an excellent job working to improve the quality of life and maintain morale at the base. Now Congress needs to do its part by remembering the considerable sacrifice made under difficult conditions by these sailors and soldiers, and by stepping in to address the issues regarding the treatment and status of foreign prisoners so that our service men and women are not unfairly associated with the errors of their government.