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Pentagon delivers new guidelines on transferring detainees to Guantanamo

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on Nov. 6, 2017. (Matti Matikainen/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has given the White House its new policy guidance on transferring detainees to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a critical report intended to outline whether the Pentagon backs promises President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail to fill the prison with “bad dudes.”

“This policy provides our warfighters guidance on nominating detainees for transfer to Guantanamo detention should that person present a continuing, significant threat to the security of the United States,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Sarah Higgins said.

The report was not made public.

“Terrorists are not merely criminals,” Trump said in his State of the Union address, announcing his orders to keep the prison open. “They are unlawful enemy combatants. And when captured overseas, they should be treated like the terrorists they are.”

The White House referred questions back to the Defense Department, which provided no additional details on who will be tasked with nominating detainees for transfer and whether it covers Islamic State fighters, such as a group of British fighters nicknamed “the Beatles.”

Human rights groups quickly slammed news of the new policy despite seeing no details, interpreting that it will allow additional detainees.

“Given the history of torture, unlawful detention and complete lack of justice provided there, no new detainees should ever be transferred to Guantanamo,” said Daphne Eviatar, director of security with human rights at Amnesty International USA.

Earlier this year, Trump revoked his predecessor’s order to close the facility and declared the prison open to new detainees. Trump gave the Defense Department 90 days to develop a policy “governing transfer of individuals” to the military prison in collaboration with the secretary of state, attorney general, secretary of homeland security, director of national intelligence and others.

“The United States remains engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaida, the Taliban, and associated forces, including with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” it said, using language that suggested the Trump administration wanted a policy to send ISIS captives to the detention center that was set up for suspected al-Qaida and Taliban members and affiliates.

There are currently 40 captives, including 10 who were charged with war crimes at military commissions created by President George W. Bush.


© 2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.