The Jan. 27 editorial “Guantanamo’s cost” rightfully called attention to the 40 prisoners still languishing. Having just returned from Guantanamo, where I spent a week observing dysfunctional military commissions as director of national security advocacy for Human Rights First, I have seen firsthand how shortsighted policies adopted after 9/11 — particularly the use of torture — made Americans less safe and trampled on American values in the process. After nearly two decades, it is past time to pull the plug on George W. Bush-era “war on terrorism” policies in favor of sustainable and effective counterterrorism approaches aligned with American values. The ill-conceived military commissions should simply be shut down, and Congress should remove the ban on transferring detainees to the United States, where they can finally be prosecuted in our far more effective federal courts.

Detainees who cannot be prosecuted should be released with appropriate security precautions. Congress should also finally rein in the dangerously unbounded war authorization it passed in 2001 and limit war-based killing and detention to where such extraordinary powers are necessary, lawful and effective before these policies cement themselves as the new normal, rather than a crisis-induced aberration.

Rita Siemion, Washington