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White House 'energetically' working on transferring Gitmo detainees

Oliver Janney/CNN
Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 9:57am

 

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama's national security team is pushing forward on moving detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to other countries amid outrage in Congress at the recent transfer of five Taliban prisoners in exchange for captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

While there aren't any "imminent transfer announcement in the works," the team assigned to moving detainees is "energetically working this issue every day from Washington, foreign capitals, and places in between," according to National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

Obama last met with his Guantanamo special envoys in November. It's been a longstanding goal of Obama's to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, which requires moving prisoners detained there to other facilities.

United States law currently does not allow Guantanamo detainees to be moved to the U.S., a provision that has impeded the administration's efforts to close the prison, since detainees cannot be tried in civilian courts or moved to American prisons.

The U.S. has transferred hundreds of detainees to countries like Afghanistan, Algeria and Saudi Arabia over the past decade, though restrictions have prevented transfers to other nations. Hayden said on Wednesday that 17 detainees have been transferred since Obama renewed the case for closing Gitmo during a speech a year ago.

She added the administration is "making progress on a number of additional promising opportunities" on closing the detention facility.

That progress could be stymied by angry lawmakers, who have said they were left in the dark about the prisoner swap that led to Bergdahl's release. While law requires the White House to notify lawmakers 30 days before a detainee transfer, administration officials have said the urgency of the Bergdahl deal disallowed the month-long notification period.

The House Appropriations Committee voted this week to include an amendment in a larger spending bill that prohibits federal funds from being used to transfer detainees from Guantanamo.

And Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a measure Monday that would ban the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo while the Bergdahl case is probed.

"Until President Obama convinces the public that this swap was in our interests, all further transfers should be off the table," Cruz said.

Asked about calls on Capitol Hill for new legislation aimed at temporarily halting transfers from Gitmo, Hayden reiterated the President is committed to closing the facility.

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