WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s goal to close down Bay detention centre before he leaves the office may not be fulfilled as Pentagon doesn’t want the prison be shutdown and is creating bureaucratic and procedural hassles.
According to a news report by Reuters citing unnamed officials, whenever there is a possibility of prisoner transfer, Pentagon officials refuse to provide photographs, complete medical records and other basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take detainees.
“They have made it increasingly difficult for foreign delegations to visit , limited the time foreign officials can interview detainees and barred delegations from spending the night at ,” the wire news service said.
The Pentagon behavior, at least “partly”, has made doubtful Obama’s pledge made in the 2008 presidential election that the detention center at the United States Naval Base at Bay, Cuba will be closed down before he demits office.
Obama criticized President George W. Bush for having set up the prison for foreigners seized in the “War on Terror” after the Sep 11, 2001, attacks on the US, and then keeping them there for years without trial.
When Obama took office, the prison held 242 detainees, down from a peak of about 680 in 2003. Today, with little more than a year remaining in his presidency, it still holds 107 detainees.
However, Pentagon officials have denied any intentional effort to slow transfers.
“No foreign government or U.S. department has ever notified the Department of Defense that transfer negotiations collapsed due to a lack of information or access provided by the Department of Defense,” said Pentagonspokesman Gary Ross, a US Navy commander.
White House also denied that there is any discord with the Pentagon. Myles Caggins, a White House spokesman, said: “We’re all committed to the same goal: safely and responsibly closing the detention facility,”
However, if the transfer of prisoners and the process and procedures followed is studied keenly, there appears a pattern of delay in almost all the cases.”
For example, in September, US State Department officials invited a foreign delegation to the detention center to persuade the group to take detainee Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni, to their country.
The foreign officials wanted to review medical records of Ba Odah who has been on a hunger strike for seven years, dropping to 74 pounds from 148.
The foreign officials wanted to make sure they could care for him, Reuters said, citing US officials with knowledge of the episode.
However, Pentagon officials declined to release the records for the next six weeks because of patient privacy concerns.
The foreign delegation canceled its visit. But when the Obama administration promised to deliver the records, the delegation traveled to and appeared set to take the prisoner. The Pentagon again withheld Ba Odah’s full medical file.
In the five years since he was cleared for release by US military, intelligence and diplomatic officials, the Yemeni remains in . Ba Odah has already spent nearly 14 years in the prison.
In interviews with multiple current and former administration officials involved in the effort to close , Reuters found that the struggle over Ba Odah’s medical records was part of a pattern.
Since Obama took office in 2009, these people said, Pentagon officials have been throwing up bureaucratic obstacles to thwart the president’s plan to close .