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What to Do About Guantanamo Bay

Speakers: Phillip Carter, Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Policy, U.S. Department of Defense
Marc A. Thiessen, Fellow, American Enterprise Institute; Former Chief Speechwriter to President George W. Bush, The White House
Matthew C. Waxman, Professor, Columbia Law School; Adjunct Senior Fellow for Law and Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
April 22, 2014

Event Description

Despite President Obama's stated goal of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, it continues to hold dozens of detainees. Phillip Carter of the Center for a New American Security, Marc Thiessen of the American Enterprise Institute, and CFR's Matthew Waxman join CFR President Richard N. Haass to discuss the costs, benefits, and risks of keeping Guantanamo open. Because many of the remaining detainees are difficult to prosecute in criminal court and too dangerous to release, Guantanamo is unlikely to be shut down anytime soon.

This meeting is part of the "What to Do About" series, which highlights specific issues and features experts who put forward competing analyses and policy prescriptions in a mock high-level U.S. government meeting.

Event Highlights

Phillip Carter on Guantanamo's effect on terrorist recruiting:

"In terms of catalyzing actual radicalization, that is still an open question. We don't have a randomized control trial that tells us that with Guantanamo it's likely to generate terrorism, without it it's not."

Marc Thiessen on the legal justification for continuing to hold detainees at Guantanamo:

"The fundamental issue is—are we engaged in a war? Or are we engaged in a law enforcement operation? You know, you keep hearing the objection to Guantanamo, is well, how can you keep people, hold people indefinitely if they haven't had the chance to right to a trial, and haven't been convicted of a crime. And, the answer is, they're enemy combatants. They're not criminals."

Matthew Waxman on how the imminent withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan may affect the status of some Guantanamo detainees:

"I think as we think about options for the way forward, it's important to think about possible, sort of game changing intervening factors. One possible intervening factor is that the drawdown of U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan could give rise to new legal arguments on behalf of detainees at Guantanamo."

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