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Eric Holder: White House Considering New Guantanamo Envoy To Help Close Facility

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A guard tower overlooking Guantanamo's Camp Five and Six (Ryan J. Reilly / Huffington Post).
A guard tower overlooking Guantanamo's Camp Five and Six (Ryan J. Reilly / Huffington Post).

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is looking at candidates to serve as an administration official in charge of helping close Guantanamo's detention centers, Attorney General Eric Holder revealed Tuesday.

"We're in the process of working on that now, we're looking at candidates," Holder said at a press conference at the Justice Department, in response to a question about whether the administration would appoint a State Department official to help close the prison facility. Several leaders have called on the president to put a top official in charge of the process of helping repatriate detainees who have been cleared for transfer to other countries and closing the facility.

Daniel Fried, special envoy to close the Guantanamo prison facility, was reassigned in January and was not replaced.

"What we are going to try to do is close Guantanamo," Holder said. "The president has indicated that it's too expensive, that it's a recruitment tool for terrorists, it has a negative impact on our relationship with our allies, and so we're going to make a renewed effort to close Guantanamo."

A military spokesman in Guantanamo said Tuesday that 100 detainees were being tracked as hunger strikers, with 29 being force-fed. Journalists visiting Guantanamo's Camp Five on Tuesday were evacuated because of a "Code Yellow" detainee medical emergency.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House's National Security Council, said Tuesday she had no further details on the candidates or the details of the envoy position, but noted that Obama was considering a "range of options," including reappointing a senior official at the State Department. Hayden also said this week that the administration was "encouraged by Yemen’s progress" despite the fact that the president has issued an executive order continuing the national emergency in Yemen, the home country of many of the 86 Guantanamo detainees currently cleared for transfer to another country.

"We continue to encourage all Yemenis to take advantage of this historic opportunity to shape Yemen’s future. Certain individuals, however, remain intent on attempting to thwart Yemen’s transition to democracy. The [executive order] signals our ongoing support for the Yemeni people as they chart a more peaceful and democratic course for their country, as well as our intention to take action against those who seek to undermine the transition," Hayden told HuffPost in an email.

During a commencement address over the weekend at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, Holder slammed members of Congress who "placed unwise and unwarranted restrictions on where certain detainees could be housed, charged and prosecuted."

"Let me be clear: those who claim that our federal courts are incapable of handling terrorism cases are not registering a dissenting opinion. They are simply wrong," Holder said at the speech. "Their assertions ignore reality. And attempting to limit the use of these courts would weaken our ability to incapacitate and to punish those who target our people and attempt to terrorize our communities."

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