Justice Department Blocks White House Attempt To Speed Up Detainee Transfers

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Attorney General Loretta Lynch is blocking a White House proposal to speed along the process of shuttering Guantanamo Bay, further deepening the rift between the White House and Department of Justice over how to handle Gitmo.

The proposal is an attempt to permit detainees to plead guilty over video conference, but Lynch is convinced that such a confession constitutes a violation of criminal procedure, Reuters reports.

First, she blocked the proposal when it was forwarded in an interagency setting. Her refusal set back two months of negotiations. Second, she instructed the administration not to openly support the Senate from pushing legislation to allow video conference pleas for detainees. For Lynch, proper criminal procedure simply does not allow defendants to use video conference to plead guilty.

Her moves have frustrated White House officials desperate to fulfill President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to close down Guantanamo Bay. Obama has thrown his support behind both video conference proposals, but he chose to respect Lynch’s objections, instead of brushing past them.

The plan would permit prisoners to plead guilty and serve their time in a prison outside Gitmo and outside the U.S. Such a plan would allow Gitmo to actually be closed, as it would respect a congressional mandate not to transfer detainees to U.S. soil.

Not all Republicans are opposed to the idea of detainees serving time off-shore. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham is reportedly “intrigued.”

Yet, because there’s still the lingering issue of legality, it’s possible federal judges will smack the proposal down, even if Congress approves.

“How would a judge assure himself that the plea is truly voluntary when if the plea is not entered, the alternative is you’re still in Gitmo?” a source aware of Lynch’s objections told Reuters.

Gitmo is still home to 80 detainees, 30 of whom are eligible for transfer. A total of 10 more detainees could be added to that eligibility list.

Recently, a Gitmo detainee released to Uruguay has vanished into thin air and is believed to have crossed into Brazil using fake documents. U.S. authorities are desperately working with Uruguay to track Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, a Syrian.

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