Agence France-Presse

US State Department shuts down office tasked with closing Guantanamo

This picture shows a shadow of a US soldier next to a placard on a fence at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

As of today, there is no longer a State Department office overseeing efforts to close the US prison at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, and the person assigned to the task, Daniel Fried, has been given something else to do, reported The New York Times, citing an official statement. 

But that hardly signals dwindling US involvement at the base, where pretrial hearings were held today for five Guantanamo detainees accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, reported The Guardian. The US seeks the death penalty against them in a case that NYT on Sunday said is dividing the Obama administration. 

With the 9/11 case taking center stage, Obama's 2009 bid to close the controversial detention center is slowly fading from public memory, possibly making for less of a need for the State Department office.

As NYT national security correspondent Michael Savage has it

The announcement that no senior official in President Obama’s second term will succeed Mr. Fried in working primarily on diplomatic issues aimed at repatriating or resettling detainees appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison as a realistic priority, despite repeated statements that it still intends to do so.

Fried’s work will be taken over by a State Department legal official, NYT said, citing an official statement.

It also reflects the intractability of the Guantanamo issue, the US having struggled to relocate what they consider high-risk detainees being held on legally challenging grounds.

European cooperation recently saw fresh discouragement in a landmark rights court ruling that penalized Macedonia for cooperating with American officials in controversial detention practices. 

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