The Senate passed the annual NDAA today. (National Defense Authorization Act.) It prohibits the transfer Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. The vote in the Senate was 91 to 3. Obama is expected to sign the bill, notwithstanding his objection to the Gitmo provision.
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Five Yemeni detainees have left Guantanamo. Four were sent to Oman and one was sent to Estonia.
122 detainees remain.
Senior U.S. officials say they hope to accelerate transfers in 2015 of the dozens of prisoners already cleared for release from Guantanamo and to complete reviews that could clear others to be moved. Obama is taking a more active role in the renewed effort to close the facility, pressing foreign heads of state to accept detainees and making a fiscal case for shutting the prison, which costs $400 million to $500 million a year to operate.
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Four more detainees have left Guantanamo. They are Mohammed Zahir, Shawali Khan, Abdul Ghani and Khi Ali Gul. All are from Afghanistan and were returned to Afghanistan.
There is no requirement that the Afghan government further detain the men.
There are 132 detainees left at Gitmo, including 64 who are eligible for transfer. 8 are Afghanis, and Afghanistan's High Peace Council has requested their repatriation as well.
Obama issued a statement yesterday criticizing Congress for blocking the transfer of detainees. He said closing Gitmo is a "national imperative":
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Pope Francis's Secretary of State met with John Kerry today. He relayed the Pope's offer to use his international contacts to find alternative placement for Guantanamo detainees.
The pope made clear his feelings on the kind of abuses associated with Guantanamo in October, when he railed against the "penal populism" that led to countries facilitating torture, using the death penalty and incarcerating people without trial.
"These abuses will only stop if the international community firmly commits to recognising... the principle of placing human dignity above all else," he said.
Pope Francis is also a harsh critic of life sentences, which he says are a "hidden death penalty," and solitary confinement, calling it "physical and psychological torture". [More...]
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These men were held for 12 years and cleared for release in 2009. No charges were ever brought against them. I was glad to see some of them smiling in the photos. They are learning Spanish, taking hikes, walking along the beach, shopping for food, and cooking at barbecues.
Thank you Uruguay. [More...]
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Six detainees at Guantanamo have been transferred to Uruguay. Four are from Syria, one is from Tunisia and one is Palestinian.
Their names: Jihad Diyab, Ahmed Adnan Ahjam, Ali Hussain Shaabaan and Omar Mahmoud Faraj, Abdul Bin Mohammed Abis Ourgy and Mohammed Tahanmatan.
136 detainees remain at Gitmo. 67 have been cleared for release. 13 have been transferred since November.
The President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, said they are free to leave Uruguay at any time. He refused to agree to hold them for two years as requested by the U.S. In a letter to the U.S. he wrote:
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Muhammad al-Zahrani, imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2002, returned home to Saudi Arabia today. He agreed to participate in the Saudi rehabilitation program.
Al-Zahrani is the 13th prisoner to leave Guantanamo Bay this year and the seventh in just the past two weeks. Officials have said more prisoners will be released in the coming weeks as part of a renewed effort to close the site. Seventy three are already cleared for release.
142 detainees remain at Guantanamo. 73 of them have been cleared for release.
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Five Guantantamo detainees, four from Yemen and one from Tunisia, have been transferred to Georgia and Slovakia.
Obama has now transferred 100 detainees during his presidency. There are 143 detainees remaining at Gitmo.
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Guantanamo detainee Fawzi al-Odah has been transferred home to Kuwait.
Held for 13 years without charges, al-Odah's father says he was a teacher in Afghanistan who was kidnapped by bounty hunters and sold to the U.S. The Periodic Review Board found he received training but had no leadership position.
The board, however, determined that he had only a low level of training and did not have a leadership position in either group. He will be required to participate in a militant rehabilitation program in Kuwait.
148 detainees remain at Guantanamo.
The Wall St Journal (free link) reports President Obama is planning on closing Guantanamo through various executive actions, if necessary, to get around Congress' restrictions on detainee transfers.
Of the 149 who remain, 79 have been approved for transfer by national-security officials but remain because of political or diplomatic obstacles in repatriating them.
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The original complex, Camp X-Ray — with kennel-like cages that were used for about four months in 2002 while Delta was built — is a ghost prison, overrun by vegetation and banana rats, tropical rodents the size of opossums.
There's also a "FAQ" section on the future of Gitmo. Gitmo costs $443 million a year to operate -- $3 million per inmate (currently there are 143 inmates.) [More...]
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Five Afghan detainees at Guantanamo have been traded for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier being held in Afghanistan. The detainees were delivered to the Government of Quatar in Cuba, while U.S. commandos picked up the soldier in Afghanistan. Quatar was instrumental in the negotiations.
The White House says the detainees were members of the Taliban, not al Qaeda. All five have been held at Gitmo since 2002.
The released detainees are: Mohammad Fazl, about 47, Mullah Norullah Noori, about 47, Mohammed Nabi, about 48, Khairullah Khairkhwa, about 47, and Abdul Haq Wasiq, about 43. [More...]
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The Supreme Court today denied cert in the case of Guantanamo inmate Abdul al Qader Ahmed Hussain who said the lower court failed to exercise meaningful review in determining whether there were sufficient grounds to hold him at Gitmo. The lower court had ruled its authority was limited.
Justice Stephen Breyer issued a separate statement agreeing with the outcome but noting
The Court has not directly addressed whether theAUMF authorizes, and the Constitution permits, detention on the basis that an individual was part of al Qaeda,or part of the Taliban, but was not “engaged in an armed conflict against the United States” in Afghanistan prior to his capture. Nor have we considered whether, assuming detention on these bases is permissible, either the AUMF or the Constitution limits the duration of detention.
Breyer said since Hussein had not raised these issues, he was agreeing with the majority.
President Obama signed the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014) in Hawaii today.
He also released this signing statement criticizing Congress for its restrictions on transferring Gitmo detainees to the U.S. and preventing federal trials.
Obama needs to step up the pressure on closing Gitmo. One of his first acts in office in 2009 was to issue an executive order promising the closure of Gitmo in a year. It will not be good for his legacy if Gitmo is still up and running when he leaves office 8 years later. Then again, he also released a similar statement last year, so who knows what his intentions are. [More...]
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Retired Gen. Michael Lehnart, who was in charge of Guantanamo when it opened in 2002, says it's time to close it and end the mistake.
"In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong..."
"We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo, both in terms of detention and torture," Lehnert wrote. "Our decision to keep Guantanamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States."
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