By CHARLIE SAVAGE and HELENE COOPER MAY 29, 2014 | NYT
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is under pressure from within the Obama administration to step up his pace in approving the transfer of low-level Guantánamo Bay detainees, has told reporters that he would decide soon whether to accept a months-old offer to resettle six prisoners in Uruguay.
But Mr. Hagel, in his most expansive public comments about detainee transfers, acknowledged that he has been in no rush to sign off on them. He cited the burden and responsibility of being the one official who, under a legal obligation imposed by Congress, must personally determine that releasing a detainee makes sense.
“My name is going on that document. That’s a big responsibility,” Mr. Hagel said, adding: “What I’m doing is, I am taking my time. I owe that to the American people, to ensure that any decision I make is, in my mind, responsible.”
Mr. Hagel made his remarks in response to questions by a reporter accompanying him on a flight to Alaska late on Wednesday.
They came less than a week after Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, sent a three-page memo to Mr. Hagel requiring him to “provide an update on progress on detainee transfers every two weeks until further notice,” according to an official who read passages of the memo to a reporter.
Mr. Obama has sought to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since taking office in 2009. Congress gave the secretary of defense the final say over approving transfers. He must determine that a transfer is in the national-security interest and that steps have been taken to “substantially mitigate” the risk that a detainee could pose a future threat to the United States or its allies.
Ms. Rice’s May 24 memo includes a record of Mr. Obama’s guidance on how much risk to accept when transferring detainees, including saying that it is “not a zero-risk standard,” and that the risk must be balanced against the harm to the United States caused by the continued operation of the facility.
The memo is said to define “substantially mitigate” as meaning that “steps have been or will be taken that would materially lessen the risk that detainee, post transfer, will engage or re-engage in any terrorist or other hostile activity that specifically threatens the United States or U.S. persons or interests.”
There were no transfers of low-level detainees under Mr. Hagel’s predecessor, Leon E. Panetta, who ran the Pentagon from July 2011 to February 2013. But Mr. Hagel has approved 11 transfers of low-level detainees, plus another who served out a sentence. Just one of those — an Algerian repatriated in March — came this year. Several officials said that more than a dozen detainees are the subject of proposed deals, and that there are serious talks with specific countries about taking in several dozen more.
In an interview with NPR on Thursday, Mr. Obama reiterated his desire to close Guantánamo. “We cannot in good conscience maintain a system of indefinite detention in which individuals who have not been tried and convicted are held permanently in this legal limbo outside of this country,” he said. He made a similar comment in his speech at West Point the day before.
In one respect, Mr. Obama’s negative portrayal of indefinite detention clashed with a key aspect of the approach to closing Guantánamo that he has advocated: He wants to bring several dozen detainees — who are deemed too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release — to a prison inside the United States for continued detention without trial.
Mr. Obama also said he keeps “chipping away” at the problem. /…
More: New York Times
The “pressure” he’s under is from Obama, let’s be clear about that. And Susan Rice is right in there. All in an attempt to pander for votes. One might even wonder if the detainees vote or something?
So he’s been hard at work on this release program, demanding reports every 2 weeks, but on the VA he was completely AWOL and ignorant about the corruption or scandal. No wonder, all his attention is on securing the release of terrorists from Gitmo. It is no surprise all his staff are involved, too. ‘All hands on deck’. But the massive VA-gate, not so much.
Concern now is that Obama intends to empty Guatanamo in months. He’s right up to speed and briefed on that. The US is what’s under pressure.
Then, right on the heels of his West Point speech, up pops the trade of one questionable prisoner of the Taliban for 5 upper echelons of the Taliban. (not 3 or 4, but 5) You guessed it, sounds like a deal US couldn’t refuse.
And right on cue, out pops Susan “the video” Rice, talking points in hand, saying Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction.” I wonder what the next deal will be, since we are out of our prisoners held by the enemy to negotiate.
He didn’t tell Congress about the Bergdahl trade beforehand, because he knew some members opposed making a deal which had been on the table for years. As we noted, the regime had previously assured everyone that no deal would go through without Congress being informed beforehand. So that was obviously another lie. At what point does Congress take back their Constitutional obligation, which Obama is eviscerating, right and left?
Part of the deal on the table had also been giving the Taliban a million dollars. Did Obama give them the money too?
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