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Closing Guantanamo a threat to security, local professor says

A retired Army psychologist who interviewed hundreds of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said the United States should not close the detention facility because it would imperil national security at home.

Larry C. James, 59, a retired colonel and a Wright State University psychology professor, said Tuesday he “strongly” disagrees with President Barack Obama’s plan to close the prison, fulfilling a pledge he made in his campaign for the White House.

The president said it was time to close the terrorist detention camp that had sparked persistent legal battles, was a recruitment tool for Islamic militants and had strong opposition from foreign allies, the Associated Press reported.

“The president is elected to do the will of the American people, and the will of the American people is we want Guantanamo to stay open and we don’t want any of those detainees on U.S soil,” James said.

A June 2014 Gallup poll found 66 percent of those polled opposed closing the prison camp and 29 percent were in favor.

The population at Guantanamo has decreased considerably, and only 91 prisoners are currently housed there. Thirty-five of those detainees would be transferred to other countries, according to the other plan, while dozens of the remaining prisoners could be housed in 13 locations in the U.S. Those locations have not been identified.

U.S. communities chosen to house terrorism suspects would be at greater risk of a terrorist attack, James said.

“These guys in Iraq and Afghanistan, they attack police stations almost as a recreational sport,” he said. “It makes the citizens” near the proposed prisons face an increased likelihood “that Americans are going to be hurt who live in proximity to these places.”

The detention facility on the U.S. naval base in Cuba should be turned over to the federal prison system and “any American citizen convicted of terrorism … should be incarcerated down in Guantanamo with their brothers,” James said.

Guantanamo was one of the places that has come under congressional scrutiny for past interrogation techniques, such as water-boarding, in an attempt to gain information from some terrorism suspects.

James, who deployed to Guantanamo twice, said, “We have turned the corner on that. That is a violation of federal law to use any of those tactics right now.

“… By the time I went to Guantanamo, all of the CIA personnel were gone,” said James. “I had nothing to do with any of that stuff and I was not there while any of those types of things were going on.

“I did not see anything that was illegal at the time,” he added. “There was certainly no water-boarding or any of that kind of stuff.”

James wrote the 2008 book “Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib,” in which he talked about his time at Guantanamo and his efforts to correct problems at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.