Abner J. Mikva, et al.

At 4:41pm on Thursday, February 6th, Illinois' most influential attorneys - 42 Democrats, Republicans and Independents - emailed a letter to President Obama. Copies were sent to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler; Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monoco; the State Department's Office of Guantánamo Closure envoy Clifford Sloan; and the Pentagon envoy Paul Lewis. 

Among the signatories are former members of Congress, former United States attorneys, former attorneys general, a former governor, powerful litigators, corporate attorneys and renowned author Scott Turow. Many have been among the president's strongest supporters and personal advisors. All of them are now urging President Obama to dispense with excuses and make good on his pledge, made to many of them personally and to the public as his first Executive Order, to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

"Our country does not condone indefinite detention without trial," they remind the president. "Congress has passed the legislation you requested easing the former restrictions on transferring detainees to other countries; you now have all the authority you need to close Guantánamo "   

Read the full letter here:

* * * *

February 6, 2014 


President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Some of us are Democrats, some Republicans, and some independents. Like you, we are Illinois lawyers who believe strongly that adherence to the Rule of Law is critical to our national reputation and values, and that we can effectively combat terrorism and, at the same time, maintain fidelity to the Rule of Law. As you have stated, it is particularly important that we adhere to our principles not only when it is easy, but when it is most difficult to do so.

January 11 marked the twelfth anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo prison. There should be no thirteenth anniversary. All steps must be taken to close that prison as soon as possible. That is not a partisan goal; Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Robert Gates, John McCain and Richard Lugar, as well as many other prominent Republicans, have called for the closing of Guantánamo. As you have said: “GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the Rule of Law.”

You have stated exactly what must be done: “[W]e’ve got to close Guantánamo…. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.” We strongly support your commitment to close the Guantánamo prison, and we are encouraged by the news that seven prisoners have been released over the past several months.

Mr. President, Congress has passed the legislation you requested easing the former restrictions on transferring detainees to other countries; you now have all the authority you need to close Guantánamo. As Senator Carl Levin stated, the legislation “provides a clear route for the transfer of detainees to third countries.” Many countries have already offered to take them. The legislation also allows the administration, without congressional restrictions, to transfer prisoners by consenting to court orders authorizing their transfer, a clear and simple route for the many who have already been cleared.

As you know, half of the prisoners still at Guantánamo – 77 of the 155 there – were cleared for transfer over four years ago by your Joint Task Force, yet they remain at Guantánamo Bay! They should be returned to their homes and families immediately. The others have been promised hearings before newly appointed boards, but few have been held. These hearings should proceed immediately. Those cleared at these hearings should be promptly released. Those not cleared should be charged and tried as soon as possible, and dealt with appropriately. Our country does not condone indefinite detention without trial.

To summarize: for more than 11 years, most of these men have been deprived of their liberty without trials. This is a tragedy for them and their loved ones and a rallying cry for our enemies. 

We ask you to use your existing authority to close Guantánamo.1


Hon. Abner J. Mikva, Member of Congress (1969-1973, 1975-1979); Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (1979-1994; Chief Judge, 1991-1994); Counsel to the President (1994-1995)2

Hon. James R. Thompson, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (1971-1975); Governor of the State of Illinois (1977-1991); Winston & Strawn

Hon. George N. Leighton, Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County (1964-1969), Judge, Illinois Appellate Court (1969-1976); Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (1976-1987)

Hon. Benjamin K. Miller, Justice, Illinois Supreme Court (1984-2001); Jenner & Block LLP

Dan K. Webb, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (1981-1985), Winston & Strawn

Anton R. Valukas, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (1985-1989), Jenner & Block LLP

Thomas P. Sullivan, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, (1977-1981); Jenner & Block LLP

Tyrone C. Fahner, Attorney General of the State of Illinois (1980-1983); Mayer Brown LLP

Hon. Adlai Stevenson III, United States Senator (1970-1981); Chairman, Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy

Hon. Carol Moseley Braun, United States Senator (1993-1999), Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa (1999-2001); Founder, Good Foods Organic

John R. Schmidt, Associate Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice (1994-1997); Mayer Brown LLP

Hon. Warren Wolfson, Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County (1975-1994); Judge, Illinois Appellate Court (1994-2009); DePaul Law School (Acting Dean 2009-2011)

Martin J. Oberman, Member, Chicago City Council (1975-1987); Law Offices of Martin J. Oberman

Judson H. Miner, Corporation Counsel of the City of Chicago (1986-1989); Miner Barnhill & Galland, PC

Robert A. Helman, Mayer Brown LLP

Scott Turow, author; Dentons

Lowell E. Sachnoff, ReedSmith LLP

Ronald S. Safer, Schiff Hardin LLP

Todd A. Smith, Power Rogers & Smith, PC

Daniel E. Reidy, Jones Day

William F. Conlon, Sidley Austin LLP

Vincent J. Connelly, Mayer Brown LLP

Fay Clayton, Robinson Curley & Clayton, PC

Ronald S. Miller, Miller Shakman & Beem LLP

Randolph N. Stone, University of Chicago Law School

Patricia A. Bronte, Stowell & Friedman, Ltd.

Jeffrey D. Colman, Jenner & Block LLP 

Gary A. Isaac, Mayer Brown LLP

Charles F. (Chuck) Smith, Skadden Arps LLP

David J. Bradford, Jenner & Block LLP

Kimball R. Anderson, Winston & Strawn

Robert L. Graham, Jenner & Block LLP

Sidney N. (Skip) Herman, Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP

Steven H. Cohen, Cohen Law Offices

Daniel M. Feeney, Miller Shakman & Beem LLP

Charles H.R. Peters, Schiff Hardin LLP

Jeffrey I. Cummings, Miner Barnhill & Galland, PC

Cynthia A. (Cindy) Wilson, Northwestern University School of Law

Matthew J. O’Hara, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP

J. Andrew Moss, ReedSmith LLP

Leonard C. Goodman 

Nancy C. Loeb, Northwestern Law School

- - -

1 Responses may be made to Thomas P. Sullivan.  

2 Institutional names are included to identify counsel and not to reflect that the institutions or law firms support the views in this letter.