Official: US moving ahead with Guantanamo closure


MIAMI (AP) — President Barack Obama is moving ahead with
his push to close the Guantanamo Bay prison despite the uproar over the
exchange of five Taliban prisoners for a captured American soldier, an
administration official said Thursday.
The government has been
working to reduce a backlog of prisoners already approved after a
security review for transfer to their homeland or repatriation
elsewhere, the official told reporters.
The official said a
"significant number" of prisoners are on their way toward release, but
he declined to say precisely how many or when they would leave
Guantanamo. The remarks were made on condition of anonymity amid fierce
criticism in Congress over the decision to swap the five Taliban for
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
The U.S. holds 149 men at Guantanamo. Most
have been there without charge since the detention center opened in
January 2002 to hold prisoners suspected of links to al-Qaida or the
Among the total are 78 who have been cleared for transfer
to their homeland or repatriation to another country if the U.S. can
get required security assurances.
Obama came into office pledging
to close the detention center within a year but was thwarted by
Congress, which adopted restrictions on transfers abroad and a ban on
transferring prisoners to the United States for any reason.
year, Congress eased the restrictions on transfers abroad but left in
place a 30-day notice requirement that the Obama administration chose to
skip in exchange for rescuing Bergdahl from captivity after five years.
Several Republicans in Congress are determined to keep Guantanamo open and bar Obama from transferring
any prisoners.
Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire who is a member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee and a chief proponent of keeping the
prison operational, said the Bergdahl swap represents a "real-case
example" that she and other lawmakers can use in arguing for tougher
restrictions on Guantanamo detainees.
She said Bergdahl’s case
highlights "the risk that we take when we’re transferring high-risk
detainees to third-party nationals that we can’t necessarily account for
their security and ability to get back into the fight."
member of the committee, Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, has
said he will introduce legislation next week to prohibit any transfers
from Guantanamo until Congress learns more about the Bergdahl case.
Associated Press writer Donna Cassata in Washington contributed to this report.

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