Argument: Guantanamo is based on a false choice b/w security and principle
Human Rights First issued a statement on behalf of the retired military officers in January of 2009. - "By unequivocally rejecting torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment, shutting down secret prisons, providing Red Cross access to prisoners in US custody, rejecting the legal opinions that facilitated and excused torture, and announcing the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, President Obama has rejected the false choice between national security and our ideals. Our nation will be stronger and safer for it."
Many countries grapple with the dilemma of balancing national security and the rights of the accused. Authoritarian states have concluded that the best way to address serious security threats
is to summarily detain the people they consider the most dangerous suspects. Malaysia and Singapore, for example, have unabashedly embraced such preventive detentions. In both countries, the government can hold suspects for renewable two-year periods without charge or a meaningful court appearance based on the mere suspicion that they might endanger national security. Islamists, Communists, and political dissidents have been imprisoned on these grounds. One Singaporean dissident, Chia Thye Poh, alleged to be a Communist Party member, was detained without charge or trial for 32 years.
But U.S. policymakers seeking alternative models for balancing liberty and security are more likely to look to liberal democracies than authoritarian states. Among the liberal democracies, the United Kingdom and France are arguably the most aggressive in granting the state latitude in detaining terrorism suspects. The United Kingdom has experimented with preventive detention. In the 1970s, it interned hundreds of suspected Irish Republican Army members without trial. But when Westminster realized that this policy generated sympathy for the IRA and aided recruitment efforts, it changed course. The British Ministry of Defense later acknowledged, "With the benefit of hindsight, it was a major mistake." After 9/11, the government once again introduced preventive detention for non-British citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism. But the nation's highest court, the House of Lords, struck down those powers in 2004, arguing that their use constituted a disproportionate and discriminatory response to the threat of terrorism. However, the government has granted Scotland Yard the right to detain terrorism suspects at the early stage of an investigation for up to 28 days, and it has proposed extending that period to 42 days. Longer detention still requires filing criminal charges. In addition, the United Kingdom allows judicially approved "control orders," which restrict the movement and association of terrorism suspects who are not in custody and have not been charged.
"The rule of law prevails". The Globe and Mail. January 23, 2009 - No one should think that, in his orders yesterday, Mr. Obama was giving ground to a ruthless, shadowy enemy. The 16 retired generals and admirals who stood behind Mr. Obama, applauding, as he signed the executive orders yesterday, didn't think so. He was putting into practice the words from his inaugural speech - that the choice between "our safety and our ideals" is a false one. Yesterday, he said: "We think that it is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world. We intend to win this fight. We're going to win it on our terms." And he was unequivocal about torture. "I can say without exception or equivocation that the United States will not torture." They are words worth preserving.