Biden Administration Transfers Its First Detainee From Guantánamo Bay

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The Biden squad picked up wherever the Obama medication near disconnected with the repatriation of a Moroccan man, reducing the situation colonisation to 39.

The Pentagon’s archetypal   lockup, Camp X-Ray, astatine  Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. President Biden and his aides person  sought to debar  igniting backlash by moving   softly  to statesman  reducing the colonisation  astatine  the base’s wartime situation  again.
Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

Carol RosenbergCharlie Savage

July 19, 2021, 5:02 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — The Biden medication connected Monday transferred its archetypal detainee retired of Guantánamo Bay, repatriating a Moroccan antheral who had been recommended for discharge from the wartime situation starting successful 2016 but nevertheless remained determination during the Trump years.

The transportation of the man, Abdul Latif Nasser, 56, was the archetypal motion of a renewed effort nether President Biden to winnow the colonisation of prisoners by sending them to different countries that committedness to guarantee the men stay nether information measures. Mr. Nasser was ne'er charged with a crime.

The transportation process, which was pursued by the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, had atrophied nether Donald J. Trump. With Mr. Nasser’s departure, determination are present 39 prisoners astatine Guantánamo, 11 of whom person been charged with warfare crimes. At its highest successful the years aft the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the penetration of Afghanistan, the situation analyzable astatine the U.S. naval basal determination held astir 675 men.

Far much analyzable argumentation decisions astir transfers await the Biden team, including whether to transportation a mentally sick Saudi man, Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was tortured astatine Guantánamo and is considered to person been 1 of respective candidates to beryllium a imaginable 20th hijacker connected 9/11.

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Credit...International Red Cross

The remaining 28 prisoners who person not been charged during the astir 2 decades they person been successful custody are held arsenic Mr. Nasser had been — arsenic indefinite law-of-war detainees successful the equipped struggle against Al Qaeda. Of those, 10 person been recommended for transportation with information arrangements by a national parole-like panel.

The Biden White House, portion supporting the extremity of closing the prison, has adopted a low-key attack successful that effort. Mr. Obama made it a signature policy, ordering that the situation beryllium closed during his archetypal twelvemonth successful bureau — and failed successful the look of aggravated absorption from Congress. Mr. Biden and his aides person sought to debar igniting the aforesaid benignant of backlash by moving softly to statesman reducing the situation colonisation again.

“The United States is grateful to the Kingdom of Morocco for its willingness to enactment ongoing U.S. efforts to adjacent the Guantánamo Bay detention facility,” a elder medication authoritative said connected Sunday, portion the transportation was underway, and truthful declined to beryllium identified by name. The authoritative said the White House was “dedicated to a deliberate and thorough process of responsibly reducing the detainee colonisation and yet closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.”

Military quality officials person formed Mr. Nasser arsenic a erstwhile Taliban combatant who battled the invading U.S. forces successful the Tora Bora mountains successful precocious 2001. He told an interagency sheet through a representative 5 years agone that helium “deeply regrets his actions of the past,” and helium was approved for merchandise by the authorities sheet connected July 11, 2016, connected the information that helium beryllium sent lone to his autochthonal Morocco with information assurances from its government.

Details of specified arrangements are not public, but successful the Obama years they typically included not letting the erstwhile detainee question overseas for respective years and a committedness to show him and to stock accusation with the American authorities astir him.

U.S. forces delivered Mr. Nasser to Moroccan authorities custody aboriginal Monday. Mr. Nasser’s household members successful Casablanca person pledged to enactment him by uncovering him enactment successful his brother’s swimming excavation cleaning business, said his lawyer, Thomas Anthony Durkin of Chicago.

Mr. Durkin, who has represented Mr. Nasser for much than a decade, noted that Mr. Nasser was connected the verge of merchandise successful aboriginal 2017 erstwhile the Trump medication halted each transfers and closed the bureau astatine the State Department that negotiated information arrangements for specified deals.

Only 1 detainee near the situation during the Trump years, and nether precise antithetic circumstances: A confessed Qaeda violent was repatriated to Saudi Arabia to service retired a situation condemnation imposed by a U.S. subject commission, successful accordance with an earlier plea agreement.

In a statement, Mr. Durkin called the past 4 years of Mr. Nasser’s 19-year detention “collateral harm of the Trump administration’s and zealous Republican war-on-terror hawks’ earthy politics,” adding, “If this were a wrongful condemnation lawsuit successful Cook County, it would beryllium worthy $20 million.”

“We applaud the Biden medication for causing nary further harm,” helium said.

The Biden medication did not renegotiate the Obama-era statement to repatriate Mr. Nasser, the elder authoritative said, but the State Department did request “to reaffirm” the presumption of the transportation statement with Morocco. They were not disclosed.

A nationalist vigor property with a akin name, Latif Nasser, present of the nationalist vigor programme “Radiolab,” devoted a six-part audio series to questions astir whether his near-namesake’s activities, including a stint astatine a Qaeda grooming campy successful Afghanistan successful the precocious 1990s, merited 2 decades of U.S. subject detention.

Mr. Nasser, the Guantánamo detainee, had been captured successful 2001 by Pakistani information forces, which turned him implicit to the American military.

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Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

As portion of its low-key approach, the Biden squad has not revived the Obama-era presumption of a peculiar envoy to question the satellite negotiating deals for different countries to instrumentality successful lower-level detainees. Instead, determination diplomats and vocation employees successful the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism handled talks with the Moroccan government, according to officials acquainted with the matter.

“We are trying to find a mode to enactment connected each idiosyncratic case,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said astatine a quality rights treatment successful Paris connected June 25. “In definite cases you request to find a state that is acceptable to invited the idiosyncratic successful question.”

Once a state is identified, helium said, “we indispensable person a warrant that the rights of these radical volition beryllium protected successful that country. That’s not easy, either.”

The medication has reinvigorated a parole-like process that was established successful the Obama years to see each detainee who was not charged with crimes, to determine whether to urge turning him implicit to the custody of different country. The interagency Periodic Review Board has announced 5 decisions since Mr. Biden took office, and each of those detainees were approved for transfers — including the oldest antheral held astatine Guantánamo, a 73-year-old Pakistani with bosom illness and different geriatric ailments.

The sheet has representatives from six nationalist information agencies, including the Directorate of Intelligence, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the Department of Homeland Security, but a proposal for transfers does not guarantee release. The State Department indispensable inactive travel up with a transportation deal, and the defence caput indispensable personally o.k. it and supply announcement to Congress.

The committee besides held a proceeding connected May 18 connected whether to urge the transportation of the Saudi captive who was tortured astatine Guantánamo, Mr. Qahtani, but has not announced a decision.

He has a separate suit pending successful national tribunal implicit whether his psychiatric condition, acute schizophrenia, justifies repatriating him to aesculapian attraction successful Saudi Arabia due to the fact that helium cannot person capable attraction astatine the naval base. As portion of that lawsuit, his lawyers obtained a tribunal bid to person a sheet of doctors, including 2 non-American ones, analyse him.

The Justice Department during the Trump medication had opposed that lawsuit, and days earlier Mr. Trump near bureau his Army caput changed a regularisation to effort to disqualify each Guantánamo prisoners, notably Mr. Qahtani, from the anticipation of a court-ordered autarkic introspection extracurricular doctors.

Some Democrats successful Congress, signaling impatience astatine the gait of efforts to adjacent the prison, person projected authorities successful the Appropriations Committee that would defund the detention cognition astatine Guantánamo, which has been estimated to cost much than $13 cardinal per captive per year.

Doing so, however, would necessitate uncovering a spot for the remaining 39 detainees to go. And adjacent if the transportation of Mr. Nasser to Morocco turns retired to beryllium the archetypal of a flurry, transfers of lower-level detainees unsocial volition not adjacent the prison.

Some prisoners would person to beryllium brought to the United States, perchance to a subject detention setting, notably Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has yet to spell connected proceedings arsenic the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Current national instrumentality dating to aboriginal 2011 forbids specified transfers. The Biden White House’s 2022 fund proposal would reconstruct statesmanlike authorization to transportation Guantánamo detainees to a mainland situation facility. But that would beryllium up to Congress.

Republicans and immoderate Democrats person opposed the transportation of Mr. Mohammed and the others to detention successful the United States and sought to stoke fears that giving them a proceedings connected U.S. ungraded oregon simply detaining them successful the mainland would beryllium much of a information to nationalist security. Opponents of the restrictions accidental that the national authorities already holds galore convicted terrorists connected home ungraded safely and that bringing detainees from Guantánamo to akin detention would beryllium nary different.

In a motion that specified governmental messaging whitethorn soon return, connected May 25, eight Republican senators wrote Mr. Biden opposing his intent to adjacent the detention halfway done transfers.

“The remaining 40 detainees are each precocious risk,” the senators wrote. Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma led the effort. The others who signed it were Marsha Blackburn, Kevin Cramer, Ted Cruz, Steve Daines, James M. Inhofe, Jerry Moran and Thom Tillis.

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