White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the Biden administration is “considering all available avenues to responsibly transfer detainees,” and “close Guantanamo Bay.”
“Yes, our goal is to close Guantanamo Bay,” Psaki said at Monday’s briefing. “I don’t have a timeline for you. As you know, there’s a process. There are different layers of the process, but that remains our goal and we are considering all available avenues to responsibly transfer detainees and of course close Guantanamo Bay.”
Her comments came the same day that the Biden administration’s senior administration officials announced its first transfer of a detainee, Abdul Latif Nasir, from the military prison, back to Morocco.
The Periodic Review Board (PRB) in 2016 decided Nasir was no longer a U.S. security risk and that his case could move forward, but the process was paused during the Trump administration who wanted to keep the prison open.
A senior Biden official told reporters, “The PRB assesses that information together with the detainee’s testimony at the hearing, should he choose to participate, to determine whether continued detention remains necessary to address a continuing significant threat.”
Psaki confirmed that “there are 39 detainees who remain at Guantanamo Bay, 10 are eligible for transfer, 17 are eligible for a periodic review board, and 10 are involved in the military commission’s process and two detainees have been convicted.”
The Biden administration is seeking to transfer all detainees but cannot give a specific timeline of when the prison will be emptied the official said.
“The Biden administration will apply all the necessary diplomatic resources to facilitate the transfer of detainees found eligible. So, the Department of State is the lead for engaging in those diplomatic negotiations,” the senior official said.
Shortly after taking office Biden aides in February launched a formal review of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, reviving the Obama-era goal of closing the controversial facility with the aim of doing so before he leaves office, the White House said.
The prison was opened under President George W. Bush. The prison’s population grew to a peak of about 800 inmates before it started to shrink. Obama whittled down the number further but his effort to close the prison was stymied largely by Republican opposition in Congress.
Psaki said there is no date for closure as the president needs Congress’s approval and that takes a process.
“Well, as you know, there are several components of this process and it includes notifications and consultations with Congress. It’s not something where one individual, even the president of the United States, can do it on his own,” Psaki said.
Reuters contributed to this report.