Four years ago, Barack Obama’s first act as President was an executive order to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The White House created a position at State of “special envoy” to Guantanamo, whose duties included reviewing the pending cases with Attorney General Eric Holder, and diplomacy with allies to place the current detainees in order to close the facility. Four years later, the only thing being closed is Special Envoy Daniel Freed’s office:
The State Department on Monday reassigned Daniel Fried, the special envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and will not replace him, according to an internal personnel announcement. Mr. Fried’s office is being closed, and his former responsibilities will be “assumed” by the office of the department’s legal adviser, the notice said.
The announcement that no senior official in President Obama’s second term will succeed Mr. Fried in working primarily on diplomatic issues pertaining to repatriating or resettling detainees appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the prison as a realistic priority, despite repeated statements that it still intends to do so.
Mr. Fried will become the department’s coordinator for sanctions policy and will work on issues including Iran and Syria.
The Daily Caller remembers Obama’s demands for closing down Gitmo during his first term — indeed, during his first year in office:
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.
So what happened? First, Fried discovered that while our allies liked to complain publicly about Gitmo, they weren’t nearly as enthusiastic about resettling terrorists within their own borders. After Obama and Eric Holder proposed trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 conspirators in federal court in Manhattan, even Democrats like Chuck Schumer balked. The White House looked into buying a prison in Illinois to transfer the remaining detainees out of Gitmo, but so far bipartisan majorities in Congress refuse to fund any activities relating to moving detainees or closing the facility that was built with the specific purpose of keeping them secured and outside of the US.
Ironically, Fried’s office got closed on the same day that KSM’s military commission trial resumed, although it didn’t go smoothly:
Two Sept. 11 defendants delayed the start of their hearing Monday at Guantanamo when they refused to respond to questions from their judge in the case.
Defense lawyers didn’t say what prompted the silent protest by self-proclaimed terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and one of five co-defendants at the military tribunal on the U.S. base in Cuba. Mohammed refused to say whether he approved the hiring of another attorney for him. Fellow defendant Walid bin Attash refused to say why he wanted a military lawyer removed from his team.
The judge eventually granted the changes without comment from the defendants.