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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

2010 challenges will require strong leadership

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dear Nebraskans,

Amidst the bustle of Christmas and the New Year, two headlines reminded us of why the government should strive to rise above politics when debating and enacting policy. When a man with ties to al Qaeda attempted to blow up an American airliner on Christmas Day, it served as a fresh and stark warning that our enemies abroad remain committed to waging war against our country and our ideals. We must remain vigilant in the fight against those who still reject freedom and tolerance as a basic part of human life. This means enacting sensible policy free from the constraints of politics; it means not allowing captured terrorists to return to al Qaeda hotbeds to continue their fight.

I sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reverse his pledge to transfer detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. According to the Department of Defense, this policy has resulted in as much as 20 percent of the released detainees resuming the fight. In their rush to close Guantanamo, the Administration seems bent on fulfilling an uninformed campaign promise to close Guantanamo. The current detainees would be transferred to the U.S., where they would gain more legal rights, or to certain potentially unreliable countries overseas. The United States can still commit itself to its noble democratic standards while protecting itself from those committed to the destruction of democracy and all of its adherents.

In contrast, a promise President Obama should keep but is having trouble doing so relates to transparency. Yet it is now, more than ever, that the American people need the President to honor his pledge about transparency and honesty in government. Earlier this month, leading Democrats in Congress announced health care legislation will bypass the formal conference committee, the traditional means by which differences in the House and Senate versions are ironed out. Instead, they favor closed-door negotiations. This directly contradicts a promise President Obama made throughout his campaign: "we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents." Last week, C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb expressed his willingness to help the President make this promise a reality.

In response, I signed a letter, along with 39 of my Senate colleagues, strongly advocating the President to follow through with his commitment. I find it very unfortunate that the health care debate has devolved to a point that 40 Senators had no choice but to formally request honesty and transparency from their colleagues. If the bill is so contentious and flawed as to require the eleventh hour of negotiations to be cloaked in secrecy, something is terribly wrong.

The new year will bring many new challenges and recycle some old ones. It will require honest and sensible policymaking that fulfills two essential responsibilities: national security and transparent government. Anything less is a disservice to all Americans.


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Dear Senator Johanns. I am terribly alarmed by your announcement that you have sent a letter requesting that Obama halt ALL transfers of detainees from Guantanamo. We should, instead, release as soon as possible all those who were wrongfully detained and against whom no credible existence exists that they ever posed any threat to the United States. What you are suggesting is that we continue to lock up innocent men, knowing full well that they are innocent. That is irrational and un-American.

Of the 198 men remaining at GTMO, 103 have been cleared for release. This means that a thorough, interagency review, led by the Pentagon, has determined that there are no grounds for holding them. Further, many of these men have won so called "habeas hearings" in which Federal Judges have ruled that the government does not have even minimal evidence to justify their continued detention. In case after case at GTMO, we locked up the wrong people -- caught people up in a sloppy dragnet and treated common folk with no connection to terrorism like evil criminals. They have been stolen from their families; many have not seen their children grow up; have had their parents die while in GTMO. I have read a lot of their stories, and seen video of released men, who seem kind and compassionate (and, again, are unequivocally innocent). It breaks your heart. The America I believe in does not condemn innocent men to this torment, but that is what your "request" of Obama does.

As to the notion that 20 percent of those released have "returned to the battlefield": it is a deeply flawed claim based on horribly shoddy logic and methods and cannot be accepted as truth. Numerous analysts have poked holes in the Pentagon claim that you could drive a truck through. Included among those who "returned to the battlefield," the Pentagon suggests, are folks who, after their release, criticized GTMO to journalists, or got arrested for reasons having nothing to do with hostility to the US. I am saddened and confused that a Senator, with presumably a staff that could look into facts, could casually toss out that claim to justify the ludicrous suggestion that we should continue to hold in GTMO detainees that OUR OWN MILITARY determines are wrongfully held.

Please consider withdrawing your request. It makes no sense. I can't believe you advocate holding innocent men, indefinitely, against whom no evidence exists of their committing any crime against the US. Again, that's not the America I believe in. I don't think that's the America your constituents believe in. And if you or any of this paper's readers knew the facts about who is detained there, I'm sure you'd agree that we should let those detainees cleared for release go free.

Jeremy Varon

-- Posted by jvaron on Tue, Jan 12, 2010, at 11:20 PM


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Sen. Mike Johanns
Sen. Mike Johanns
U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns is a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Nebraska governor and Lincoln mayor.

Address: 404 Russell, Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Phone: (202) 224-4224
Fax: (202) 228-0436

You may contact Senator Johanns by emailing mike_johanns@johanns.senate.gov. If you would like to receive a response from Senator Johanns, please ensure you include your name, full address, and phone number.