The State Department office responsible for helping facilitate the relocation of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has been closed, The New York Times reports.
The paper reports that Daniel Fried, who served as the special envoy for Guantanamo Bay since the position’s inception in 2009, has been reassigned. He will not be replaced, and his duties will now be “assumed” by the State Department’s legal adviser, according to an internal personnel announcement.
Relocating detainees had been seen as a vital step in the president’s promise to close the prison, which was frequently and vociferously criticized by liberal activists before Obama’s election.
“I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that,” Obama told CBS’ Steve Kroft in November 2008.
Obama also signed an executive order shortly after taking office that declared the prison for suspected terrorists would be shuttered “no later” than January 2010.
“I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war,” he said while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize eleven months later. “That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed.”
Yet the prison remains open, and plans to begin relocating prisoners to a facility in Illinois were scrapped amid opposition from Congress.
Fried had been responsible for relocating detainees who were not believed to pose a threat to the United States. Moreover, according to the Washington Post, he had “been tasked with turning into a reality the president’s promise to close Guantanamo Bay prison for alleged terrorists.”
Attempts to move the prisoners were hampered by congressional efforts to impose restrictions on where they could be resettled, and many foreign governments proved hesitant to accept the transfers.
Also on Monday, four detainees held at the prison for their alleged involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States appeared publicly before a military tribunal for the first time.
Among them was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is charged with helping to mastermind the attacks that plunged the U.S. into a global and long-running counterinsurgency effort.