“As the President has said, the United States remains determined to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “In support of those efforts, today the Department of Defense certified to Congress its intent to repatriate an additional two detainees to Algeria. We are taking this step in consultation with the Congress, and in a responsible manner that protects our national security.”
While the Congress has tried to block efforts to close Guantanamo, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act included provisions giving the Secretary of Defense more flexibility on detainee transfers.
While it’s unclear at this point which detainees the administration will be transferring — the first since April, 2012 when the Pentagon released two Chinese Muslim detainees in El Salvador — the administration has cleared 86 for transfer; 59 of those are from Yemen.
It’s also unclear how much today’s announcement has to do with the ongoing hunger strike at Gitmo. The protest has ebbed since the start of Ramadan, as the military said on Friday that 68 detainees are on hunger strike, down from a peak of 106 just before the Muslim holy month. Forty-four hunger strikers remain on the force-feed list.
Lawyers for the detainees — who have been accused of orchestrating the hunger strike — have said that sending some of the detainees home could help end the protest. U.S. Army Captain Jason Wright, a Pentagon lawyer representing Gitmo detainees, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, told ThinkProgress in May that “a more strategic way to end the hunger strike could possibly be for the administration to take immediate steps to start releasing some of the detainees,” adding: “I think that would bring an added element of hope to their plight.”