Biden Administration Transfers Its First Detainee From Guantánamo Bay


WASHINGTON – The Biden administration moved its first inmate from Guantánamo Bay on Monday and repatriated a Moroccan who had been recommended for release from prison in 2016 but stayed there during the Trump years.

The rendition of the man, Abdul Latif Nasser, 56, was the first sign of renewed efforts under President Biden to identify the prisoners’ population by sending them to other countries promising that the men will remain under security measures. Mr. Nasser has never been charged with a crime.

The transfer process operated by the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations was stunted under Donald J. Trump. After Mr Nasser’s departure, 39 prisoners are now in Guantánamo, 11 of whom are charged with war crimes. At its peak in the years following the attacks and invasion of Afghanistan on September 11, 2001, the prison complex at the US naval base there contained around 675 men.

Far more complex political decisions about transfers await the Biden team, including whether or not a mentally ill Saudi, Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was tortured in Guantánamo, is one of several candidates as a potential 20th kidnapper on May 9-11.

Recognition…International Red Cross

The remaining 28 prisoners, who have not been charged in the nearly two decades of their incarceration, are being held like Nasser – as permanent prisoners of war in the armed conflict against Al-Qaeda. Of these, 10 were recommended for safe transfer by a state probation body.

While the Biden White House supports the goal of closing the prison, it is taking a cautious approach. Mr Obama made it a signature policy and ordered the prison to be closed during his first year in office – and failed in the face of fierce opposition from Congress. Mr Biden and his staff have tried to avoid the same type of backlash by working quietly to reduce the prison population again.

“The United States is grateful to the Kingdom of Morocco for its willingness to support the ongoing US efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention center,” said a senior civil servant on Sunday as the rendition was in progress and therefore declined, by name to become . The official said the White House was “dedicated to a conscious and thorough process of responsible reduction of the prison population and the eventual closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.”

Military intelligence officials have identified Nasser as a former Taliban fighter who fought against invading US forces in the Tora Bora Mountains in late 2001. “And he was approved for release by the government body on July 11, 2016, on condition that he is only sent to his home country of Morocco with government security assurances.

Details of such agreements are not public, but in the Obama years they typically included that the former inmate would not be allowed to travel abroad for several years and the obligation to monitor him and provide information about him to the American government.

US forces delivered Mr. Nasser to the Moroccan government custody early Monday. Mr. Nasser’s family members in Casablanca have pledged to support him by finding him work at his brother’s pool cleaning company, said Chicago attorney Thomas Anthony Durkin.

Mr Durkin, who has represented Mr Nasser for more than a decade, noted that Mr Nasser was on the verge of release in early 2017 when the Trump administration stopped all transfers and closed the State Department office that has safeguards for such offers.

Only one inmate left prison during the Trump years, and under very different circumstances: an avowed al-Qaida terrorist was repatriated to Saudi Arabia to serve a sentence imposed by a US military commission, according to an earlier agreement.

In a statement, Mr Durkin described the last four years of Mr Nasser’s 19-year imprisonment as “collateral damage to the crude policies of the Trump administration and the zealous Republican war on terror hawks,” adding, “If this was a false conviction.” would? In Cook County it would be worth $ 20 million. “

“We applaud the Biden government for not causing further damage,” he said.

The Biden administration did not renegotiate the Obama-era deal to repatriate Mr Nasser, the senior official said, but the State Department must “confirm” the terms of the transfer agreement with Morocco. They were not disclosed.

A public radio personality with a similar name, Latif Nasser, now from the public radio program “Radiolab”, devoted a six-part audio series to the question of whether his near-namesake’s activities, including a stay at an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, were coming to an end 1990s, earned two decades of US military imprisonment.

The Guantánamo prisoner Nasser was arrested in 2001 by Pakistani security forces who handed him over to the American military.

As part of its low-key approach, the Biden team has not revived the position of Obama-era special envoy traveling the world negotiating lower-level agreements for other countries to accept prisoners. Instead, regional diplomats and career workers from the Foreign Ministry’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau held talks with the Moroccan government, officials familiar with the matter.

“We are trying to find a way to act for each individual case,” said Foreign Minister Antony J. Blinken at a human rights discussion in Paris on June 25th. “In certain cases you have to find a country that is ready to welcome” the person in question. “

Once a country is identified, he said, “we need to have a guarantee that the rights of these people will be protected in that country. It’s not easy either. “

The government has revitalized a probation-like process instituted in the Obama years to examine any convict who has not been charged with crimes to decide whether to recommend placing them in someone else’s custody To hand over land. The inter-agency Periodic Review Board has announced five decisions since Mr Biden took office, and all of these detainees have been admitted for transfer – including the oldest man in Guantánamo, a 73-year-old Pakistani with heart disease and other old-age ailments.

The panel consists of representatives from six national security agencies, including the Directorate of Intelligence, the Pentagon Joint Staff, and the Department of Homeland Security, but a move recommendation does not guarantee release. The State Department has yet to submit a transfer agreement, and the Secretary of Defense must personally approve it and communicate it to Congress.

The board also held a hearing on May 18 on whether to recommend the transfer of the Saudi prisoner tortured in Guantánamo, Mr. Qahtani, but has not announced a decision.

He has a separate lawsuit pending in federal court as to whether his psychiatric condition, acute schizophrenia, justifies his return to medical care in Saudi Arabia because he cannot receive adequate care at the naval base. As part of that lawsuit, his attorneys obtained a court order to have him examined by a medical panel, including two non-American ones.

The Justice Department during the Trump administration had resisted this lawsuit, and days before Mr. Trump stepped down, his Army Secretary amended an ordinance to try to exclude all Guantánamo prisoners, especially Mr. Qahtani, from the possibility of a court-ordered independent investigation exclude doctors outdoors.

Some Democrats in Congress, signaling impatience with the prison closure efforts, have proposed a law in the Advisory Committee that would lift the Guantánamo incarceration, which is estimated to cost more than $ 13 million per prisoner per year.

However, this would require finding a place for the remaining 39 inmates. And even if Mr Nasser’s rendition to Morocco turns out to be the first excitement, renditions of subordinates alone will not close the prison.

Some prisoners would have to be taken to the United States, possibly to a military detention center, most notably Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is yet to be tried as an accused mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

The current federal law from the beginning of 2011 prohibits such transfers. The Biden White House budget proposal for 2022 would restore the president’s authority to transfer Guantanamo detainees to a mainland prison. But that would be a matter for Congress.

Republicans and some Democrats have spoken out against the rendition of Mr Mohammed and the others in custody in the United States, trying to fuel fears that trial on US soil or simple incarceration on the mainland poses greater danger to the national one Would represent security. Opponents of the restrictions say the federal government is already holding many convicted terrorists securely on domestic soil and that it would be no different to transfer Guantánamo prisoners to similar detention.

As a sign that such political messages might return soon, eight Republican senators wrote to Mr Biden on May 25 that he opposed his intention to move the detention center down.

“The remaining 40 detainees are all associated with high risk,” wrote the senators. Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma led the effort. The other signatories were Marsha Blackburn, Kevin Cramer, Ted Cruz, Steve Daines, James M. Inhofe, Jerry Moran, and Thom Tillis.