RELEASING GITMO DETAINEES IS NO GOOD FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

Some say that President Obama is closer to closing the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba because of pending approval for changes in the law that would allow detainees to be transferred back to the countries of their origin.

But closing Gitmo should not be anyone’s goal. Closing the facility would only play into the agenda of al Qaeda, the Taliban, Islamists and their apologists. Gitmo is a result of a need to keep captured enemies safe and secure in order to obtain valuable information that may save many lives, to prosecute suspected war criminals, and to keep known Islamists who want to kill Americans on the battlefield and in the streets.

Releasing Gitmo Detainees is No Good for National Security

Furthermore, closing Gitmo will not end the Global War on Terror, nor will it make Islamists want to kill us less. But it would pose a grave danger to Americans and our allies. More than 600 detainees have already been released. None have been executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets – things our enemies do to us.

According to the Director of National Security already more than 28 percent of released Gitmo detainees have returned to the fight, including Abu Sufian bin Qumu, the mastermind of the Benghazi attack.

Gitmo is in fact the finest military detention facility in the world, and is a necessary and important part of keeping us safe. I worked at Gitmo with an International Committee of the Red Cross physician who told me, “no one does [detention operations] better then the United States.” Gitmo is in fact the furthest thing from being a “gulag,” an unearned tag pinned on by a liberal media and Islamist apologists.

Until Islamists are dead or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must defend ourselves.

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Even though military operations are winding down in Afghanistan, we still have troops in over 150 countries world wide defending us in the Global War on Terror. Until Islamists are all dead or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must continue to defend ourselves. That means we need a safe and secure location for unlawful combatants who are not killed, and who may have valuable information which could save many innocent lives, including yours.

The Geneva Conventions were written to PROTECT innocent civilians during war, not to protect those who PRETEND to be civilians in order to murder them. Our enemies choose NOT to wear uniforms – not because they can’t afford them, but because they don’t want you to see them coming.

Releasing Gitmo Detainees is No Good for National Security

They won’t stop if Gitmo closes. They won’t stop if we leave Afghanistan, or bring all of our troops and planes and ships home. And we cannot stop doing what’s necessary for our survival and that of our great experiment in democracy.

Some argue that repatriating Gitmo detainees back to their countries of origin is illegal and cruel if there is likelihood that the detainees would be killed or tortured. If that’s the fear, then retain them “until the end of hostilities,” just like the Law of Land Warfare and the Geneva Conventions stipulate even for lawful combatant Prisoners of War.

There should be no sense of urgency about repatriating unlawful combatants when there is a good chance they will return to the battlefield. Political expediency is no excuse for recklessness with the safety and security of innocent people, namely U.S.

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Army Plans to Close Retiree AKO Accounts by March 31, 2014: An Open Letter to Congressional Veterans’ Affairs Committee

In the “SEP-Dec 2013” issue of ECHOES, the official Army newsletter for retired soldiers, surviving spouses & families, it was announced that the Army plans to close retiree Army Knowledge Online (AKO) accounts by March 31, 2014. I believe this will place an undue hardship on me, and will cost me time, effort and security to communicate and access important information and I can now access quickly, easily and securely through AKO.

I have had an AKO account since probably around 2002, when I served on my first of three mobilizations for the Global War on Terror. Since then, and after retiring as a U.S. Army Reserve “gray area” retiree in DEC 2008, I have relied on AKO as a one stop shopping site for all things military, including this Veterans’ Affairs question form, which I accessed in two clicks after signing into AKO. Because the site is secure, I can gain quick, easy and safe access to my permanent Army records, DFAS pay, DEERS, Tricare, email, benefits, and dozens of other military related information portals and links.

I had always considered access to AKO a part of my rights as a member of the Army family. But now it kind of feels like this old soldier is being kicked out onto the street. I served 22 honorable years in the National Guard and Army Reserve, starting out as a PFC and then eventually becoming an officer and retiring as a major. I did not resign my commission, nor did I obtain a discharge. I bought into the idea that if I became a gray area retiree that I would enhance my eventual retired pay at 60 while at the same time making myself available should the Army require my services again. Needless to say, after reading about Army plans to disenfranchise me, and without explanation, I am feeling a bit kicked around and less than a soldier who wrote a blank check to you and the American People for my personal safety, comfort, livelihood and life.

Over the years I have seen AKO grow and change. Its importance to retirees cannot be overstated. I used it every day and several times a day during my active service days, and use it daily now as a means to stay connected to the service, my benefits and records. The site has been expanded, refined and has kept up with the times, reflecting new and better ways to serve soldiers and help soldiers serve themselves.

The same newsletter that announced retirees could no longer use AKO after March 2014, also explained how we would need to obtain a “Department of Defense Self-Service Logon (DS Logon), a relatively new, secure, self-service logon ID that allows Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs members and affiliates access to real-time personalized information on government websites.” It says after the AKO purge this will be our only secure access online for DOD and VA websites. The major flaw in this change is that beginning in March, in order to receive correspondence from the Army, I will need to inform all the pertinent Army departments that I must use a CIVILIAN email address for all notifications. The AKO account email will be discontinued in March, so I will never again receive official Army email on an official and SECURE Army email system. I feel that this will expose me and make me more vulnerable to fraud and abuse, and puts me at the mercy of a non-secure civilian email system. Worse than contracting out, as AKO did recently with the AKO email service, this is kicking out those of us who served and made it to retiree status.

Only about 15% of Army reservists ever make it to retirement, and fewer of us live to see the retired pay at age 60. I just had my first heart attack at age 51, and because I had low cholesterol (106), exercised regularly, and had no family history of heart attacks, I can only assume the stress of three deployments since 9/11/01 contributed to my illness. I don’t see age 60 as a sure thing anymore, and this AKO rug being pulled out from under me certainly adds to the stress column.

Please consider amending the current decision (by whom I don’t know) to eliminate retirees from AKO. It is a necessary and important link to the organization we are tied to for life. I have upheld my end of the bargain, and have lived the Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage in uniform and out since the mid 1980’s when I signed up and raised my right hand to swear my allegiance and my life to support and defend the Constitution. Please don’t change my status now, when it’s time for me to begin receiving the compensation, benefits and respect I earned as a soldier.

Thank you very much for your time and kind attention to my request for help in maintaining AKO status for retirees. I believe we earned the right to maintain peace of mind when communicating with and receiving communication from the organization that we served so proudly, and would gladly do so again if called.

Very truly yours,

Montgomery J. Granger, MAJ (USA Retired)