WASHINGTON — Forty-eight terror suspects currently held at Guantanamo Bay are waiting to be released to other nations, the Obama administration said Thursday. The detainees are among 50 detainees whose cases President Barack Obama said Thursday have already been reviewed. The detainees would be the first to be released to other nations under the Obama administration's effort to empty the Cuba-based prison without bringing all its inmates to the United States.
Two other detainees have been released since January, to Britain and France, officials said.
In a speech defending his plans to close the detention facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba by early next year, Obama described the 50 detainees as prisoners who "can be transferred safely to another country."
"My administration is in ongoing discussions with a number of other countries about the transfer of detainees to their soil for detention and rehabilitation," Obama said in his speech at the National Archives.
Military officials described those detainees Thursday as either low-level threats who no longer have valuable intelligence to give, or have been cleared for transfer because of a court order or otherwise lacking evidence against them.
Whether they will be transferred anytime soon is anyone's guess.
The government has been negotiating with nations like Yemen and Saudi Arabia for months to deal with some of the detainees. Obama is seeking to place up to an estimated 100 Yemeni detainees in Saudi rehabilitation programs.
Since 2002, more than 500 detainees have been transferred to at least 30 nations to be prosecuted, rehabilitated or released. Many nations, however, are reluctant to take detainees who remain at Guantanamo because they are seen as higher security risks than those who were cleared earlier.
And the U.S. is leery about transferring many detainees to other nations, like Yemen, where they may be released despite the threat they may pose. Pentagon data from January suggests at least 61 detainees have either rejoined or are suspected of returning to the fight against the United States after being released from Guantanamo.
The two detainees who have been transferred to other nations since January are:
_Ethiopian national Binyam Mohammed, a former resident of Great Britain, who claims he was tortured while at Guantanamo. He was sent back to Britain in February and is seeking to have evidence in his case be released.
_Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian, was sent to France earlier this month after a U.S. appeals court ordered his release last year. Boumediene's whose landmark 2008 Supreme Court case gave the Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment.