State Department Appoints 3rd Special Envoy For Guantanamo Closure in Six Years

Posted: 1:35 am  EDT
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On June 30, Secretary Kerry announced the appointment of Lee Wolosky, as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure:

Today, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Lee Wolosky, as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure. Lee will lead our ongoing diplomatic engagement to make possible the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility in a timely manner, consistent with American interests and the security of our people.

Lee Wolosky is a highly-skilled and experienced attorney who served as the National Security Council’s Director for Transnational Threats under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. He is ideally qualified to continue the hard diplomatic engagement that is required to close Guantanamo in accordance with President Obama’s directives. Lee will assume lead responsibility for arranging for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees abroad and for implementing transfer determinations, and overseeing the State Department’s participation in the periodic reviews of those detainees who are not approved for transfer.

In so doing, he will engage directly with America’s overseas friends and partners, while consulting closely with other interested U.S. agencies and with the appropriate committees of Congress.

I am very pleased at Lee’s decision to return to government service and look forward to working closely with him in his new position.

The State Department says that the incoming special envoy has not yet visited the detention facility at Guantanamo but that Mr. Wolosky, whose new appointment does not require Senate confirmation, “intends to visit the detention facility and meet with the detention facility leadership very soon.”

Mr. Wolosky is the third appointee to this position since it was created in 2009.

In January 2013, the NYT reported that Daniel Fried, the first special envoy for Gitmo closure was reassigned, his office closed, and his former responsibilities “assumed” by the office of the department’s legal adviser.   Via NYT:

Mr. Fried’s special envoy post was created in 2009, shortly after Mr. Obama took office and promised to close the prison in his first year. A career diplomat, Mr. Fried traveled the world negotiating the repatriation of some 31 low-level detainees and persuading third-party countries to resettle about 40 who were cleared for release but could not be sent home because of fears of abuse.

But the outward flow of detainees slowed almost to a halt as Congress imposed restrictions on further transfers, leaving Mr. Fried with less to do. He was eventually assigned to work on resettling a group of Iranian exiles, known as the M.E.K., who were living in a refugee camp in Iraq, in addition to his Guantánamo duties.

But in June 2013, the AP reported that President Obama had chosen a high-powered Washington lawyer Clifford Sloan to reopen the State Department’s Office of Guantanamo Closure, shuttered since January 2013 and folded into the department’s legal adviser’s office “when the administration, in the face of congressional obstacles, effectively gave up its attempt to close the prison.”

Sixteen months later, Secretary Kerry announced the departure of Special Envoy Clifford Sloan on December 22, 2014:

I’d like to have about a hundred Cliff Sloans. He’s the real deal. He’s the model of someone very successful on the outside who comes in to the State Department and builds relationships instead of burning bridges, gets people on board with a tough assignment, masters the inter-agency process, and just keeps his head down and proves the doubters dead wrong.
[…]
Now the results are clear. We’ve made huge progress thanks in large measure to Cliff. This guy promised me 18 months, and he delivered maximum effort for each of those 18 months. Cliff was very skillful negotiating with our foreign partners and allies, and it’s a big part of why we moved thirty-four detainees on his watch, with more on the way. Cliff also played a major role in our successful efforts to reform the Congressional restrictions on foreign transfers, and in launching the new Periodic Review Board process.

The NYT reported that the resignation of Mr. Sloan, apparently a close confidant of Secretary Kerry, came as officials at the State Department and the White House increasingly expressed frustration with the Defense Department’s slow pace of transferring approved prisoners. In an interview, Mr. Sloan denied that he was leaving because he was frustrated by foot-dragging at the Pentagon. He said he had always intended to stay a maximum of 18 months, noting that he was right on schedule.

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US Embassy Uruguay: Former Gitmo Detainees Keep Up Protest in Montevideo

Posted: 1:27 am EDT
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Here’s a job for the Special Envoy for Closure of the Guantanamo Detention Facility. But Clifford M. Sloan who was appointed Special Envoy in 2013 departed post in December 2014 and it does not look like there is a replacement for him at this time.

And because this is 2015, the former Gitmo detainees  — Ali Shabaan (Syrian), Abdul (Tunisian), Abdul Hadi Faraj (Syrian) and Ahmed (Syrian) — now have a WordPress blog at exguantanamorefugeesinuruguay.wordpress.com, where they explained the reason for their protest:

The reason we decided to protest in front of the US embassy is that we wanted from them and from all the world to hear our voices. It´s something we didn’t want nor called for but unfortunately we were pushed to it. We tried every possible and official way, we talked to many representatives of the government but our conditions didn’t change.

We know that Uruguay is a “small country”, but with ¨big hearts”, we know that it is, as Mr Mujica said “a poor country” and that´s why we are protesting in front of the embassy because the US government detained us wrongfully for 13 years and now they should provide us with the means to live as normal human beings. They can´t just throw the mistakes on others, they should help us with houses and financial support. We are not asking the impossible from them they detained us for 13 years and they should help form some years to come. We think that this is the least they could do or we can ask for.

We also want to clarify to the Uruguayan people that we want to work and live in Uruguay. However it must be understood that this is a process that takes time; for example: our first goal is to learn spanish.

Ambassador  Julissa Reynoso, a non-career appointee left post in December 2014 and has joined Chadbourne & Parke LLP as a partner in the firm’s International Arbitration and Latin America practice groups.  The chargé d’affaires at US Embassy Montevideo is Brad Freden, a career diplomat who served at the U.S. Naval War College prior to his assignment in Uruguay.

If these protesters are waiting to speak with the U.S. ambassador, they’ll have a long wait, as a new nominee has yet to be announced.  At the Daily Press Briefing of April 30, the official spox was asked if the U.S. has any sort of financial obligations to these men, having negotiated this agreement to resettle them into Uruguay. The official response:  “We do not. As a general matter under the law of war, there is no obligation to provide direct compensation to individuals detained under the law of war for their detention.”  A reporter notes that countries do get some kind of help sometimes to resettle these people and asked if that was that part of the deal with Uruguay.  The official spox could only promised to “check in and see what our diplomatic discussions are like with countries who agree to resettle detainees.”

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