Sanders: 'We Look Like Hypocrites and Fools to the Entire World' for Keeping Gitmo Open

By Susan Jones | February 24, 2016 | 6:13 AM EST

Camp X-Ray, now closed, was used as the first detention facility for al-Qaida and Taliban militants who were captured after the Sept. 11 attacks at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

( - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told a Democrat town hall in South Carolina that President Obama is right: "I think we should shut down Guantanamo," he said.

"Look, we look like hypocrites and fools to the entire world. What we have done is locked up people in a way that is causing all kinds of repercussions around the world. People say, oh, you're a democratic society, we have locked people up in an island. And I think that has hurt us all over the world.

"Obviously if people are terrorists, they need to be confined, and we need to make sure they stay in jail until whatever happens. But I think the president is right. I think we should shut down Guantanamo. I think in the long run it will help us significantly."

The Obama administration wants to bring some of the remaining terrorists -- the worst of the worst -- to the military prisons in the United States, including the Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

'Continuing advertisement for terrorists'

Town hall moderator Chris Cuomo asked both Sanders and his rival Hillary Clinton to "tell the people of South Carolina...why is it OK to have some of the worst people in the world in their backyard."

"Well, first of all, the president hasn't made any decision about where the transfers would go," Clinton responded. "And I think what he wants to do, and I hope he can achieve this, is to work with the Congress."

(Congress passed a law forbidding Obama from bringing the detainees to U.S. soil.)

"But I've been on record in favor of closing Guantanamo for a long time, since 2008. When I was secretary of state, working closely with the president, I had a special envoy to find places that could take back some of the prisoners, just as President Bush had done before President Obama.

I believe the president is right to try to close it. I think it is a continuing recruitment advertisement for terrorists.

Clinton called Gitmo a symbol "for a lot of the people around the world who would do us harm and try to recruit others to do us harm. So where they end up should be a matter of negotiation. I know that's what the president wants to do.

"I will say this, we've got a few places in the country, not here, but, you know, the maximum security place that I think is in Colorado, there's one in Illinois, that holds some really terrible people who have committed horrific crimes, including the mastermind of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

"The president is trying to figure out what to do with people who are too dangerous to be released, who have to be maintained in a very tough maximum security environment.

And all I can hope is that the Congress will work with him. I remember back in the '08 election, President Obama, Senator McCain, and I all had the same position. So I hope some of the Republicans will understand that we're in a fight against terrorism, we have to defeat it, we don't need to have Guantanamo hanging out there over our heads."

Sponsored Links