National Security Brief: Military Reports Highest Number Of Gitmo Detainees On Hunger Strike

The U.S. military said on Tuesday that 105 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike, the highest number the military has reported since the protest began in February. Of those, 44 are being force-fed via a tube through the nasal cavity and down the esophagus to the stomach.

The Gitmo hunger strike continues unabated despite President Obama’s recent pledge to renew efforts to close the prison, starting with releasing some who have been cleared for release. Lawyers for some detainees on hunger strike have said that releasing some detainees might help end the protest.

To that end, the Senate Armed Services Committee last week approved a measure to be attached to its version of the National Defense Authorization Act that would relax rules on transferring detainees from Gitmo. The New York Times reported that in closed-door proceedings, the committee agreed on provisions “lifting a ban on bringing detainees into the United States.” The Times says under the measure “ the Pentagon could send detainees to the United States for medical treatment that would be too expensive to provide at the base, for continued detention in a different prison, or for prosecution. The bill would also streamline and ease statutory limits on transferring detainees to other countries.”

In other news:

  • While U.S. officials are demanding that Russia turn over NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov said he is not in Russia. “He chose his route on his own, and we found out about it, as most here did, from mass media,” he said during a joint press conference with Algeria’s foreign minister according to the Guardian. “He did not cross the Russian border.”
  • The Washington Post reports: The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday renewed long-frustrated efforts to expand congressional oversight of government surveillance programs following disclosures about the intelligence community’s collection of phone and Internet records. The FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act, introduced Monday by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), would raise the legal bar the government must meet before obtaining call detail records from U.S. phone companies, effectively narrowing the scope of collection.
  • Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) criticized President Obama on Syria. “For too long there really hasn’t been a clearly articulated strategy,” he told Foreign Policy. “The administration has yet to make it clear to the American people what’s at stake here… With Tehran and Hezbollah taking the offensive, a bad result in Syria could greatly strengthen the Iranian regime and make it more difficult for us to constrain their nuclear ability.”
  • The New York Times reports: At least three suicide bombers launched a sophisticated attack on the heart of the Afghan government early Tuesday morning, using at least two land cruisers similar to those used by international soldiers here, fake badges and vehicle passes, which allowed at least one to get inside the heavily guarded area, according to Kabul’s deputy police chief.