The U.S. State Department has quietly shut down its office assigned to closing the detainment camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, all but ending one of President Obama’s most controversial first campaign promises.
Ambassador Daniel Fried, the special envoy handed the task of closing Gitmo, started his new job as the department’s sanctions coordinator this week, reports the Associated Press. Fried’s position will have a special a focus on Iran and Syria.
The State Department is not replacing Fried, either. Instead, responsibilities for finding countries willing to accept the remaining 166 detainees at Gitmo will now be taken up by the department’s legal office.
During his 2008 campaign for the the Oval Office, then-candidate Obama promised to close the controversial site down by the end of the first year in his term.
President Obama’s efforts to close Gitmo were blocked at every step, even by those in his own party. A proposal to release the Guantanamo Bay detainees to the custody of SuperMax prisons in the United States mainland was flatly rejected by Democrat Senators in May 2009, who raised concerns that towns hosting the jails would become targets for terrorism.
The Republican-led Congress has also cut off funding to move detainees to other countries.
During his four years as special envoy, Ambassador Fried was able to find overseas homes for only 40 detainees. One of those challenges involved 17 Chinese Uighur Muslims, who had been in Gitmo since 2001 and were cleared of terrorism charges, but could not return home out of fears they would be executed.
After first being rejected by Canada, Albania accepted four of the Uighurs. The remaining were finally resettled in Palau, who took them in after generous amounts of American taxpayer money was lavished on the tiny North Pacific island nation.
President Obama remains steadfast in his belief that the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay are “unwise,” and insists federal courts can successfully prosecute terrorist suspects.