The Obama administration is planning to appoint a special envoy to oversee the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Two officials told The Associated Press that veteran diplomat Daniel Fried will be named to the new post in a move intended to demonstrate the administration's seriousness in shutting down the controversial facility that President Barack Obama has pledged to close by the end of the year.
Fried currently is assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, a position he held during the Bush administration. Part of his new job will be negotiating the transfers of inmates from the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to third countries, mainly in Europe, the officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because specifics of Obama's plan to close the prison were still being worked out.
As Guantanamo envoy, Fried will be working with officials from the Pentagon and Justice Department as well as foreign governments on the specifics of closing the camp. He also will work with the State Department's ambassador-at-large for war crimes, Clint Williamson, who has been leading negotiations on detainee transfers, the officials said.
Fried declined to comment on the expected job offer.
Fried has close relations with governments throughout Europe, where the change of U.S. administrations has increased the likelihood that European governments will accept custody of some Guantanamo inmates. Prisoners transferred to Europe would be those determined to pose no threat but who cannot be sent back to their homelands because of the risk of persecution.
Several European nations, including Portugal and Lithuania, have said they will consider taking such detainees.
Fried may soon have his first success, but it isn't in Europe. The Associated Press is reporting today that the government of Palau might be persuaded to take in the 17 Uighur detainees that we are too delicate to send back to China. Palau will take them in, that is, if the price is right.
Two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. was prepared to give Palau up to $200 million in development, budget support and other assistance in return for accepting the Uighurs and as part of a mutual defense and cooperation treaty that is due to be renegotiated this year.
I wonder how that will work out. Palau (tourism slogan: "enchantment awaits") is the kind of place where women do not dress modestly, and there are reports that Uighur detainees at Gitmo flew into a rage at the sight of women soccer players with bare arms. They will see a lot more skin than that in Palau. Are the Palauan authorities prepared to make the Uighurs mind their manners?
At least this deal has established the current market value of taking the Uighurs off our hands: $11,764,705 and 90 cents apiece. Portugal and Lithuania shouldn't agree to a penny less for taking in any of our 200 or so other detainees.