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May 15, 2011 (Washington D.C.) -- In response to reports that the Pentagon is considering allowing detainees at Guantanamo Bay the opportunity to visit with family, Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA-52), a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced legislation this week to prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Defense from allowing detainees at the facility to meet with family members.


“Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are there for a reason,” said Congressman Hunter. “These detainees, some of whom have killed Marines and soldiers or been captured on the battlefield, present a direct threat to Americans everywhere—particularly those in our military undertaking the combat mission in Afghanistan. And with many of these detainees returning to the fight soon after being released, it’s irresponsible to think that anyone in custody now would refrain from rejoining the enemy.


Hunter said allowing family members to visit detainees would create “unnecessary risk.” He added, “First priority must go to protecting U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay and the sensitive national security information that continues to be collected at the facility. Opening its doors to family members will only make our job more difficult and potentially compromise important elements of our nation’s intelligence gathering operation.”

Advocates of family visitation have noted that the U.S. has allowed family visits in U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan, where security concerns may be even higher, and that conversations between detainees and visitors could be monitored for security purposes.


A report released this week by Amnesty International was sharply critical of the U.S. policy regarding Guantanamo. At the Guantanamo Bay detention center on a US naval base in Cuba, 174 men were still being held at the end of the year, "including three who had been convicted under a military commission system which failed to meet international fair trial standards," the report said. "Scores of men remained in indefinite military detention in Guantanamo as President (Barack) Obama's one-year deadline for closure of the facility there came and went."

The Red Cross has indicated that it has been in negotiations with the Pentagon regarding arranging family visitations with detainees at Guantanamo, some of whom have been imprisoned without trial since President George W. Bush opened the facility in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 attacks and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Some were reportedly subjected to what the Pentagon has called enhanced interrogation techniques, while critics including Amnesty International have said some prisoners were tortured.

Obama had pledged to close Guantanamo if elected. But release of those not tried has proved problematic, with some former detainees reported to have rejoined groups with terrorist ties. To date, the Obama administration has reduced the number of detainees from 245 to 172.


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