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Dozens of detainees released in 2014, but goal of closing Guantanamo still far off

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The Pentagon announced today five more detainees were released from Guantanamo. The three Yemenis and two Tunisians, who had been held for more than a decade at the U.S. military prison, have been flown to Kazakstan for resettlement. All told, 28 detainees have been moved from the facility this year, the most since 2009. But 127 still remain.

    We're joined now by a reporter who has logged more time at the detention site in Cuba than any other, Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald.

    Carol, welcome to the "NewsHour" again.

    So, five prisoners, two of them Yemenis, three of them — three of them Yemenis, two of them Tunisians, transferred to Kazakstan. What is the significance of that destination?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG, Miami Herald:

    I think that illustrates just how far-flung the State Department efforts have been to try to get the men who are cleared for release out of Guantanamo.

    That's the 20th nation to agree to take in, on an almost refugee status, as a resettlement men, who can't go home. You said they're from Yemen, which we have heard earlier there was more violence today. And they're from Tunisia. And the U.S. was not comfortable allowing them to return to their homelands.

    So they looked around the world, and Kazakstan agreed to take them in.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And just…

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Go ahead. I'm sorry.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    I'm sorry.

    I was just saying, and just recently, we heard about five more that went to Uruguay, another unusual destination.

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Yes, Uruguay was a really fascinating model for this, because President Mujica had decided that he would not only bring them in; he would take in their families.

    And so we're waiting for actually the Syrian families of some of these detainees who were released to join them in Uruguay. The goal is for these men to settle down and start new lives in these countries and to put behind them the dozen or so years they spent at Guantanamo.

    And, again, it illustrates the inability to bring them to the United States as they look around the world for countries that will resettle them, the men who have been cleared to leave there, Gwen.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, let's talk about that. You talk about these men. They have been cleared for years. Who are they? Are they dangerous? Should anybody be worried about their release?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Well, one of the men who left yesterday was told 10 years ago — he was evaluated 10 years ago that — as a low risk with a heart condition and bad health and could not go back to Tunisia.

    So the evaluation in 2004 for this Mr. Lutfi was that he need not be at Guantanamo. But it illustrates just how hard it is to find places for them to move and start new lives. All five of these men, not one of them had been charged with a crime. They were all cleared by the national security task force that met in 2009, and it was a matter of finding locations for them.

    It's not clear, you know, that they necessarily arrived there as hating the United States, but after all these years, the goal is to get them to the next place where they won't look back at their period at the detention center, but they will look forward at whatever's been arranged for their next life. We don't know what they are going to have in Kazakstan.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, we have now seen 28 of these detainees released this year. Is this a trend we see? Is this something that is purposeful, that is going on with this administration? And is it something that can continue, considering the fact there is so much resistance to this in Congress?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    So, 28 are gone, but 127 remain, of which 59 are cleared.

    So the only way to close Guantanamo is to move some of them to the United States. So if the goal is to get that detention center emptied and closed, you can find countries like Kazakstan, but the real solution is to bring them to the States, which, as we know, Congress has forbidden and it will be up to the administration to either persuade them to change their mind or make a decision on whether to defy them.

    Guantanamo doesn't close unless some of those detainees come to the United States. Remember, some of these men are on trial for the 9/11 attacks. And one is on trial for the USS Cole attack. These men are not in a position to be sent to other countries and relocated elsewhere.

    The question will be, if they are held and tried at Guantanamo or in the United States and, if convicted, where they will serve out their sentences. Or, in some instances, you know, these are death penalty cases.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And of the 60 which are cleared, we can expect — or we are anticipating to see them released in dribs and drabs or all at once in the next few months?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Fifty-two of them are Yemeni.

    It is a slow process of finding nations to take in Yemenis. And I think anyone who's sort of been seduced by the idea that they have 59 slots out there for the men who have been cleared for release are a little bit naive.

    The State Department closer has left — is leaving his job as of tonight. The State Department still has diplomats traveling the world trying to find locations. But this is far from closed. And the men who are cleared for release are far from getting on planes to go.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Carol Rosenberg on the case for The Miami Herald, thank you very much.

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Thank you, Gwen.

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