Washington - Thirty-one retired US military officers urged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo prison by speeding up efforts to transfer detainees.
“We appreciate your leadership this past year in recommitting to closing Guantanamo,” the former generals and admirals wrote in a letter released by Human Rights First.
“Guantanamo does not serve America's interests. As long as it remains open, Guantanamo will undermine America's security and status as a nation where human rights and the rule of law matter.”
The signatories included a former commandant of the US Marine Corps, general Charles Krulak, the former chief of staff of the Air Force, general Merrill McPeak, and the former head of the military's Central Command which oversees forces in the Middle East, retired general Joseph Hoar.
Five years ago the same generals and admirals were on hand at the Oval Office to witness Obama sign orders to shut Guantanamo and prohibit torture in interrogations.
But the prison is still operating at the US naval base in south-east Cuba, partly because of strong opposition by some members of Congress.
Of the 779 detainees sent to the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, 155 inmates remain behind bars. Among the remaining detainees, 78 are Yemenis and 55 have been cleared for release.
Congress in December lifted some of the more cumbersome rules for transferring inmates out of Guantanamo, giving Obama more latitude.
The former officers appealed to Obama to transfer as soon as possible those inmates no longer deemed a threat and to rapidly review the status of the remaining detainees.
In the letter, the retired senior officers also voiced concern about a persistent “false” debate about the past use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The officers called on the administration to fully cooperate with the Senate Intelligence Committee to publicly release the panels' lengthy study of the CIA's detention, rendition and interrogation programme after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
“Former CIA officials who authorised torture continue to defend it in books and film, and public opinion is with them, based on mythology, not fact,” the letter said.
“We believe that upon reviewing the facts the American people will agree that torture was not worth it, and that we as a nation should never return to the dark side.”