Calling Guantanamo Bay an "international embarrassment," Eric H. Holder, Jr., one of the two remaining appointees on Barack Obama's vice presidential search team, said the next president must close the detention facility and transfer prisoners to military prisons.
He insisted it was disgraceful that the Supreme Court "had to order the president to treat detainees in accord with the Geneva Convention."
In the months and years since 9/11, the Bush administration took many steps that were excessive and unlawful," Holder continued. "We authorized torture and we let fear take precedence over the rule of law, as we overreacted to perceived danger."
In addition to closing Gitmo, Holder insisted the next president should:
* Declare without qualification a policy that the United States will not torture political detainees, engage in forced interrogations or submit people to degrading treatment in prison;
* End all programs, covert or otherwise, to transfer detainees to nations that practice torture;
* Stop domestic search and seizures without warrant and end wiretapping of citizens.
"We have lost our way before," Holder told the 350 attendees at the Friday evening session. "Now we must step back into the shining path envisioned by our founding fathers in such icons of liberty as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."
Reasserting the rule of law is no simple matter. A new administration may—or may not—bring an end to open torture in the United States, but it will not bring an end to our knowledge and acceptance of what has already taken place. If the people wish to maintain sovereignty, they must also reclaim responsibility for the actions taken in their name. As of yet, they have not. Pursuing the Bush Administration for crimes long known to the public may amount to a kind of hypocrisy, but it is a necessary hypocrisy. The alternative, simply doing nothing, not only ratifies torture; it ratifies the failure of the people to control the actions of their government.
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