WH and DOD: More Gitmo Transfers Coming, But 'I Don't Have a Number for You'

by SUSAN JONES January 4, 2017

Both the Obama White House and Defense Department indicated on Tuesday that more of America's enemies will be released from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay before President Obama leaves office, but neither the White House nor the Defense Department could say how many of the remaining 59 prisoners will be sent to third countries that are willing to take them.

"I don't have a number for you," Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook told reporters.

"Sixteen, eighteen, twenty?" a reporter asked him.

"I don't have any number for you. Those will happen," Cook responded. "There's a protocol and procedure for each and every one of those that we will follow to the letter and -- and that is no different than how we've been operating since Secretary Carter first took this job."

Cook emphasized that the Defense Department will "carry out the appropriate policies as set forth by the commander in chief with regard to Guantanamo Bay." It's up to Defense Secretary Carter to sign off on prisoners who are determined by the White House to be eligible for release, "and he's going to continue to carry out his responsibilities as appropriate until he's finished as Secretary of Defense," Cook said.

Reporters also asked White House spokesman Josh Earnest about reports that up to 19 Gitmo detainees may be released before Obama leaves office:

"I'm not in a position to confirm individual notifications to Congress," Earnest said. By law, the Obama administration must give Congress 30 days' notice before completing a Gitmo tranfer.

"So this is part of our routine effort that we've undertaken over the last several years to reduce the population of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But I can't speak to any individual notifications have been made to Congress or give you a specific preview about potential upcoming transfers, but I think I would expect at this point additional transfers to be announced before January 20th."

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday, "There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

But Earnest said Trump's views will not factor into Obama's decisions on prisoner transfers: "He will have an opportunity to implement the policy for -- that he believes is most effective when he takes office on January 20," Earnest said.
Around 780 people have been held at Guantanamo Bay since the prison opened in January 2002.

Of that total, according to the New York Times, 712 have been transferred -- more than 500 under President George W. Bush -- and 59 remain as of 2017. The remaining 59 have been described as "the worst of the worst."

In fact, last February, when he was making the argument to move the remaining Gitmo detainees to military prisons in the United States, Defense Secretary Carter told reporters: "[T]here are people in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility whom it is not safe to transfer to any other - they have to stay in U.S. detention. Safety is the top priority for me, the chairman (joint chiefs), and for the president."

Courtesy of CNSNews.com     

Susan brings to CNSNews.com a strong background in broadcast writing and editing. She joined CNSNews.com in April 1999, after working for 18 years as a television producer and news-writer in the Washington, D.C., Denver, and Greensboro, N.C., television markets. Susan holds a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University.    

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