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Office Established by Obama with Intent of Closing Gitmo . . . Closes
By Patrick Brennan
January 28, 2013
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 aimed at repatriating or resettling detainees appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the Guantánamo Bay 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. . . .
Mr. Fried’s special envoy position was created by the Obama administration in early 2009, shortly after Mr. Obama took office and promised to close the military prison in his first year. Mr. Fried spent several years traveling the world overseeing the repatriation of low-level detainees and persuading other countries to resettle detainees who had been cleared for release but who could not be sent home.
But the flow of detainees out of Guantánamo has slowed almost to a halt as Congress has imposed a series of restrictions on transfers, leaving Mr. Fried with less to do. He was eventually assigned to work on resettling a group of Iranian exiles who were members of a group known as the M.E.K. in a refugee camp in Iraq, in addition to his Guantánamo duties.
As recently as last week, when asked at a White House press briefing about the president’s first term promise to close Guantanamo Bay, Jay Carney reiterated the president’s promise: “As you know, the president remains committed to that. He agrees with military leaders as well as his immediate predecessor that we ought to do that. There are obviously obstacles in Congress to that, but we will continue to work towards that goal because he believes it’s in the best interests of our national security.”