t got here. I came here right from the floor.
“The dark shadow of a terrorist attack has fallen over another of Europe’s great cities. And we are all standing along the Belgian, alongside the Belgian people today as they mourn the dead, heal the wounded, rebuild what’s been broken, and seek justice.
“In these situations, it’s important to look at what more we can be doing to enhance cooperation with our partners and prevent this type of violence. It’s also important to reflect on where our policies have gone astray and maybe made the situation worse. So it’s appropriate today that we’re taking a hard look at one of the most troubling and divisive symbols of our counterterrorism effort: the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.
“The subtitle of today’s hearing is: ‘What are the foreign-policy and national-security costs of closing the Guantanamo facility?’ But as policymakers, legislators, and experts have been saying almost since the facility opened, the better question perhaps may be: ‘What are the costs of keeping it open?’
“For starters, the prison is a drain on military resources. It costs nearly five million dollars a year to keep a person detained at Guantanamo, versus 78 thousand dollars a year to hold someone in our most secure federal prisons. Closing Gitmo and transferring detainees to other secure prisons would free up 85 million dollars a year—resources we could put to better use elsewhere combating terrorism.
“The argument against this goes: ‘We need to spend whatever it costs; these guys are too dangerous to bring here.’
“Let’s look at that. Today, 91 detainees remain at Gitmo. Since the prison opened, 644 individuals have been transferred out. 144 under President Obama, and 500 under President Bush.
“As of today, more than a third of the current detainees have been cleared for release after a thorough review process. Under no circumstances will these people be released onto American soil. Like all the others, they will be transferred directly to other countries. Prior to 2009, more than one in five released detainees returned to the battlefield. But improved procedures under the Obama Administration have nearly eliminated this problem.
“If the President plans to close the Guantanamo Detention—if the President’s plan to close the Guantanamo Detention Facility goes forward, only a handful of detainees would ever be brought to the United States. And those who are would be held in Supermax prisons. They’re called Supermax prisons for a reason: no one has ever escaped from one.
“And who are some of the current residents of these incredibly secure facilities? Terrorists: Zacarias Moussaoui, who helped plot September 11th 2001—as a New Yorker something I’ll never forget; Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber; four men behind the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing; six terrorists responsible for bombing our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. All these men will call ADX Florence in Colorado home for the rest of their days.
“For the very few prisoners still in the military commission process, we should try them in federal court and speed justice for their victims. If there’s any doubt whether our justice system can handle the most dangerous terrorists, ask any of the people I just listed. This isn’t a question of what rights Guantanamo detainees should or shouldn’t be accorded. It’s just a simple fact that the federal justice system has tried and punished terrorists much more effectively than military commissions.
“But beyond the dollars-and-cents, beyond our safety here at home, we need to consider the harm Gitmo has inflicted on our security interests around the world, and just as importantly, on our values.
“For terrorists seeking to recruit more fighters into their ranks, the Guantanamo facility is a gift that keeps on giving. This prison has become so infamous and so reviled that our enemies no longer even need to call it by name. Instead, as we’ve seen again and again, terrorists flip on a camera so the whole world can see, parade out some innocent prisoner dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and cut off his head or light him on fire. The orange jumpsuits weren’t selected by accident. Everyone knows what they symbolize.
“This prison has helped strengthen our enemies. It has become a stumbling block in our relationship with coalition partners. (After all, it’s not just Americans that ISIS is dressing in those orange jumpsuits.) And it has created deep division here at home. And that’s because Gitmo has long strained some of our country’s most important values. It has become synonymous with torture and indefinite detention. When we were going to school and learned all about rights and the Constitution, this was never allowed under American law.
“So, I want to quote retired Major General Michael Lehnert, the first commander of the detention facility after 9/11. And this is a quote from him; he said: ‘Guantanamo was a mistake. History will reflect that. It was created in the early days as a consequence of fear, anger, and political expediency. It ignored centuries of rule of law and international agreements. It does not make us safer, and it sullies who we are as a nation.’ So, I ask unanimous consent that Major General Lehnert’s full statement be included in the record.
“So coming back to our question—what are the costs of closing Guantanamo. To me, the answers are clear: the costs of closing the facility are far, far less than the costs of keeping it open.
“I’m not alone in this view. President George W. Bush was very clear that he wanted to close Gitmo. John McCain made a campaign promise to do the same. An overwhelming majority of national-security and military experts—including former Secretaries of State and Defense, CIA Directors, National Security Advisors, and Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—think it should be shuttered.
“As I’ve pointed out, the arguments against closing it just don’t hold up. And at the end of the day, in my opinion, the only justification for keeping the prison open is fear. Fear of violent extremism. Fear that our justice system or prison system cannot get the job done, despite all the evidence to the contrary. And fear is precisely what our enemies want to instill in us. I don’t want them to win.
“We shouldn’t allow that. We should clean up this stain on America’s commitment to justice and democracy. We should take away this propaganda tool for terrorists. We should work to implement the President’s plan and shut down this prison.
“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses. Everyone who knows me knows that I take a very hard line on this. But I think that we are far better off closing this facility for our interests, no other interests, our American interests, than if we leave it open. So I look forward to hearing our witnesses. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.”