Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on Guantanamo Bay
9:04 A.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for participating in today’s call, which is on background and attributable to a “senior administration official.”
The contents of this call are embargoed until completion of the call. For your awareness, the leaders on the call this morning are [senior administration officials]. A reminder, though: For purposes of this call, they are “senior administration [official] 1” and “senior administration official 2.”
With that, we turn it over to SAO-1.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi. Good morning, and thank you for joining us today as we announce news related to Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. Today, the Biden administration announces that, earlier this morning, Abdul Latif Nasir has been repatriated to the Kingdom of Morocco.
The United States is grateful to the Kingdom of Morocco for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.
You may recall that, in 2016, the Periodic Review Board process determined that law of war detention of Abdul Latif Nasir no longer remained necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States. Therefore, the Periodic Review Board recommended that Mr. Nasir be authorized for repatriation to his native country of Morocco, subject to security and humane treatment assurances.
However, the steps necessary to effectuate that repatriation were unable to be concluded prior to the end of the Obama administration.
On June 17th of this year, the Department of Defense notified Congress of its intent to repatriate Mr. Nasir to Morocco, and, in consultation with our Moroccan partners, we have undertaken a responsible transfer.
The Biden administration remains dedicated to a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantanamo facility.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right. With that, we’ll turn it over to SAO-2 for brief remarks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good morning, and thank you for joining us. The Periodic Review Board — or “PRB” — process is a discretionary, interagency process established by Executive Order 13567 to determine whether the law of war detention of a particular detainee remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.
The PRB membership includes a cross-section of the national security community. Each panel consists of one senior career official from each of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State; the Joint Staff; and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The PRB’s decisions are subject to review by the Review Committee, comprised of the principals of those departments and agencies.
The Department of Defense developed and administers the Periodic Review Board process for eligible Guantanamo Bay detainees, including the provision of personal representatives to assist the detainees in the process. Detainees may also have the assistance of private counsel in the process at no expense to the government.
In making a determination as to the eligibility for transfer, the Board is given access to a comprehensive, up-to-date assessment of the information about the detainee: information submitted in any previous PRB hearings; any statements from the detainee, family members, and the detainee’s personal representative and personal counsel; medical information about the detainee, including mental health information; and an assessment of conditions in the detainee’s home country.
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.
This transfer we are discussing today was certified by the Secretary of Defense in accordance with the requirements as outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, and Congress was appropriately notified.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And with that, we can go ahead and open up for questions.
Q Hi, guys. Thanks for doing this. Can you tell us anything about whether this is any kind of beginning of an acceleration of trying to repatriate more Guantanamo prisoners? And can you tell us more about military prosecutors asking, a couple days ago, to wipe from the record, you know, information gleaned from torture and that decision? Thanks very much.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, thanks. This is SAO-1. So, I will say that, at the present moment, 10 detainees — there are 39 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay; 10 detainees have been recommended for transfer by the Periodic Review Board. We are continuing to rely on that PRB process to determine whether law of war detention remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the U.S.
But for those detainees that have been recommended for transfer, the administration is very much focused on looking to pursue transfer, but I’m not able to get into the specifics of the process underway.
Q Hi, thanks. I’m just going to try that again. How many — of the 10 that’s been recommended for transfer — how many is the administration, I guess, negotiating over with other countries to take them? And can you give us any sense of what countries you’re talking to? And who has the lead on that for the administration — like, who is the person who’s actually got point for negotiating to transfer people (inaudible)?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Sure. So, again, I’m not able to share specifics of the state of diplomatic negotiations at present. But, again, we’re very much focused on the (inaudible) deliberate and thorough process to responsibly reduce the detainee population, and that does, indeed, include identifying locations for transfer for the detainees that have been recommended for transfer thus far.
I want to underscore that, as we’ve demonstrated today, 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.
Q Hi, thanks for doing this. I just want to follow up on — regarding Mr. Nasir, is he going to be detained in Morocco, or is he going to be released under some sort of monitoring there?
And also, can you give us an idea — just give us — I think it would helpful just for everyone to have, like, the overall breakdown of the 39 people. You mentioned that there were 10 people in the PRB process or who had been approved. Can you — and can you say how many are subject to a military commission process? How many are approved for a potential transfer? All of that, just so we have those numbers of the 39 that remain. Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Thanks. And I’m going to have to refer you to the government of Morocco for further information on the status of Mr. Nasir now that he’s been repatriated.
With regard to the breakdown, I don’t want to risk getting a number off, so I’d like to take that — take that back, and we’ll get back to you with the proper breakdown just to ensure that I give you exact accuracy.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can chime — “SAO-2” can chime in on the exact breakdown of people.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, following this transfer today, there are 39 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Ten are eligible for transfer. Seventeen are eligible for a Periodic Review Board. Ten are involved in the military commissions process. And two detainees have been convicted.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you for your math.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, everyone, we have some — we have limited time on the call. I just wanted to, again, thank everyone for participating this morning.
Again, everything is on background, attributable to “senior administration officials.” Contents are embargoed until completion of this call.
[Redacted.] And at this time, we’re going to conclude the call.
9:14 A.M. EDT