Original Guantánamo Commander Says Prison "Should Never Have Been Opened"

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 12 2013 3:06 PM

"A Prison That Should Never Have Been Opened"

175938130
A soldier walks through an abandoned camp at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on August 8, 2013

Photo by Chantal Valery/AFP/Getty Images

The first commander of the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay now believes that the military prison "should never have been opened" in the first place and needs to be shuttered as soon as possible. Here's retired Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert making his case in an op-ed in today's Detroit Free Press:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Even in the earliest days of Guantánamo, I became more and more convinced that many of the detainees should never have been sent in the first place. They had little intelligence value, and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes. That remains the case today for many, if not most, of the detainees.
In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong. We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantánamo, both in terms of detention and torture. Our decision to keep Guantánamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States.
Advertisement

Lehnert, who was tasked with establishing the facility more than a decade ago, has previously expressed his dismay with how prisoners have been treated at the military-run prison in the years since he left, saying in 2009 that "I think we lost the moral high ground."

Today's op-ed comes as lawmakers work on a defense authorization bill that could give President Obama increased flexibility to transfer some terrorism suspects currently being held at Guantánamo to other countries, including Yemen. The legislation would keep the ban on bringing the prisoners to U.S. soil in place, but it's nonetheless being billed as major step toward Obama meeting his yet-unfulfilled 2008 campaign promise to shutter the facility.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 6:30 PM The Tragedies That Have Shaped Canada's Gun Politics
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 9:19 PM The Phone Call Is Twenty Minutes of Pitch-Perfect, Wrenching Cinema
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.