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article imageOp-Ed: Obama closes office devoted to closing Guantanamo

By Ken Hanly     Jan 29, 2013 in Politics
Washington - The Obama administration has decided to close the office devoted to closing the Guantanamo prison in Cuba. The special envoy associated with the office has been reassigned and not replaced.
A report in the New York Times claims:“The announcement that no senior official in President Obama’s second term will succeed Mr. Fried in working primarily on diplomatic issues aimed at repatriating or resettling detainees ,appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the Guantánamo Bay prison as a realistic priority, despite repeated statements that it still intends to do so.” Fried's former responsibilities will be taken over by the office of the department's legal adviser with no senior official replacing him.
Even back in May 2009, Obama shelved a plan to bring a number of innocent and wrongly detained prisoners to the US who could not safely be repatriated. Worthington also points out :“In January 2010,” he imposed a ban on releasing any cleared Yemeni prisoners, after it was revealed that the failed underwear bomb plot of Christmas 2009 was hatched in Yemen, even though the deeply insulting rationale for the ban is that Yemenis, although cleared for release, can instead be imprisoned for life on the basis of ‘guilt by nationality.’”
To be fair, Congress has done all it can to block Obama from closing Guantanamo or giving innocent detainees refuge in the US. In some cases courts have blocked Obama as well. The announcement happens just as 5 detainees at Guantanamo are facing death penalty charges before a military tribunal over the 9/11 attacks. The detainees were informed they had the right not to attend future sessions of the hearings. All five said they understood their right but one detainee said that there was no motivation to attend anyway since “the prosecution does not want us to hear or understand or say anything.”
Daniel Fried's post of special envoy was created in 2009, not long after Obama assumed the presidency and had promised to close the prison within a year. Fried worked hard, traveling the world trying to repatriate detainees cleared for release. He repatriated 31 detainees and also persuaded third-party countries to resettle another 40 detainees.
However, as the US Congress imposed more and more restrictions on any further transfers, Fried had less to do. In fact, Fried was given the task of resettling Iranian exiles from the M.E.K,. designated a terrorist group by the US, who had been living in a refugee camp in Iraq.
A spokesperson for Fried's office said:
"We remain committed to closing Guantánamo, and doing so in a responsible fashion. The administration continues to express its opposition to Congressional restrictions that impede our ability to implement transfers.”
The most recent defense authorization act restricts Obama's ability to transfer detainees even further. While Obama threatened to veto the bill, he signed it instead. He did, however, issue a statement saying that as commander in chief he had the power to override the restrictions since they involve wartime prisoners.
Recently, a federal appeals court in Washington vacated guilty verdicts against two detainees because the crimes of which they were convicted were not internationally recognized war crimes. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., nevertheless, continues to argue that it is permissible to bring such conspiracy charges before a military commission.
President Obama, as well as the US Congress, has made it clear that the rule of law in the US includes indefinite detention with no charges and without any real due process. Since holding too many people is an embarrassment and an expense, Obama also carries out a targeted killing program on suspects that avoids the cost of keeping prisoners indefinitely.
It would seem that Obama also believes in indefinite closing of Guantanamo.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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