WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the American Jewish Committee that keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention center open "makes us less safe."
U.S. enemies "use its existence as a recruiting tool and rallying cry," and it allows them to "portray themselves as victims," Holder said in a 10-minute speech at the AJC’s annual meeting on Thursday evening in Washington.
The Obama administration has drawn some criticism from Republicans for planning to shut down the facility, opened by the Bush administration in a U.S.-controlled area of Cuba in 2002 as a means of keeping suspected terrorists from seeking relief in U.S. courts. The Supreme Court later allowed its prisoners limited access.
Holder also compared the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, with the language in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution on building a "more perfect union," and said the Justice Department is trying to "repair what is broken and try to do what we do better."
Citing "rabbinic wisdom" from Pirkei Avot that "it is not incumbent on you to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from trying," Holder said, "We may not be able to repair the world fully, but we must try."