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Last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee released the summary of its annual defense spending bill for fiscal year 2020, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill included two provisions that would improve the treatment of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, which FCNL and our partner organizations have been lobbying for since January.

If passed into law, [the provisions]( 2020 NDAA Executive Summary.pdf) would allow detainees at Guantanamo Bay to be temporarily transferred to the U.S. for emergency medical treatment and would establish an independent office to evaluate decisions regarding detainees’ healthcare. This would ensure better, more humanitarian care for detainees in U.S. custody, and independent oversight of their medical treatment.

While FCNL applauds the Senate committee for including these measures in the bill, the secrecy surrounding the Senate NDAA remains deeply troubling. The entire committee markup process, where senators propose and vote on amendments to the bill, is closed to the public. And while the bill’s [executive summary]( 2020 NDAA Executive Summary.pdf) was released shortly after the markup, weeks later, the full text of the amended bill is still not public. Robust democracy requires that information like this is shared among citizens and civil society groups.

Soon the Senate committee’s bill will face a vote on the Senate floor. The House is scheduled to consider its own NDAA bill in mid-June, and both the text and the proceedings will be open to the public. The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09), has long been a champion of better treatment for detainees at Guantanamo. We’re hopeful that the House will pass similar or even better legislation, and we will continue working towards that goal.

Emmet Hollingshead

Emmet Hollingshead

Program Assistant, Militarism and Human Rights

Emmet served as FCNL’s Program Assistant for Militarism and Human Rights for 2018-2019. He lobbied for more peaceful, ethical, and holistic U.S. foreign policy.