Background Briefing on the Administration's Ongoing Commitment To Close the Guantanamo Bay Facility

Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
Senior Administration Official
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
June 5, 2014


MODERATOR: With us we have [Senior Administration Official], and wonderful and amazing, and [Senior Administration Official]’s press guru, [Staff] is also in the room. So what we’re going to do – this is all on background, Senior Administration Official, if that’s fine. As we noted in the email, one of the conversations that’s increasingly come back to the forefront and that we are going to be increasingly focused on going forward is closing Guantanamo Bay and the rest of the guys there and what happens. I think it was time that we had a more in-depth conversation on background about all of the issues wrapped up in that.

So [Senior Administration Official] is going to make some opening remarks, and then we’ll do questions. I think to make it easier, guys on the phone, we’ll just do a round – we’ll do one round of Q’s from everyone. We’ll start with the folks here in person and then go to the folks on the phone to make sure we hit everyone, and then we’ll make sure if folks have follow-ups we can do that as well. So there’s no embargo on this.

And with that – am I missing anything?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I think that covers it.

MODERATOR: I’m ready to not answer questions for a while. (Laughter.) And I have to duck out a little bit early, so for folks on the phone, when I do, [Staff] will take over in my stead. So with that, Senior Administration Official Number One, I’m turning it over to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. Thank you, [Moderator]. And thank you, everybody, for being here and on the phone. I appreciate the chance to talk to you about this. And as [Moderator] was mentioning, I’m not going to really talk about or focus on Bergdahl. There’s obviously been a lot of opportunities to talk about that. But in some respects, Bergdahl is really an exceptional case. And I think it’s very important because I think there’s a risk of misunderstanding or confusion, and so I think it’s very important to focus on our general Guantanamo closure efforts. I mean, just – what do I mean by it’s an exceptional case? I mean, to take one obvious example, the 30-day notice. We generally – we give 30-day notice. It’s our standard operating procedure. As you know, because of the exceptional circumstances with Bergdahl, it wasn’t given. But it’s an example of how it really is an exceptional situation.

But I think it is important to be very clear about the context of our general Guantanamo closure efforts which have been ongoing, are ongoing, and are going to continue to be proceeding. And so let me give you just a sort of snapshot of where things are now and then make a few points that I would like to highlight and that I think are important, and then open it up for questions. And some of this is going to be very familiar to some of you, maybe to all of you, but I think it is important to start with the basic context and framework, because as I said, there’s a real risk of misunderstanding and confusion as this issue is proceeding, and you all can play a very important role in making sure that there’s not that kind of misunderstanding and confusion.

Okay, so –

MODERATOR: Wait, before you go on, sorry. We are doing a transcript, just so folks know. Sorry.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay.

MODERATOR: So you can write quickly but also – (laughter).

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay.

QUESTION: You’re saying you are doing a transcript?

MODERATOR: Yes, we are, guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: I mean, it’ll take a little while, but we will do one today.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay.

MODERATOR: Go ahead.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. And let’s see. So first, I mean, a few of the basic facts about Guantanamo, which again, are probably very familiar to you, but I think it is important to have a very clear understanding of the facts. As you know, there are 149 individuals there. As you know, it opened in January 2002. There have been close to 800 people who have been detainees at Guantanamo. In the Bush Administration there were more than 500 that were transferred from Guantanamo. Many of the people there have been there for 12 years or for close to 12 years at this point.

Of the 149, 78 are approved for transfer. Right now 71 are not approved for transfer. And one point that’s very important – and again, this may be very familiar to you, but I think this is very important in terms of public understanding. So what does it mean when we say “approved for transfer”? And there was a very rigorous, extensive process in 2009 and early 2010, and for somebody to be approved for transfer it meant that there had to be a unanimous determination by six departments and agencies. It was DOD, the Joint Chiefs, the State Department, the Justice Department, Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. All six had to say this person should be approved for transfer and is approved for transfer subject to appropriate security assurances and subject to appropriate humane treatment assurances. It’s a very, very careful, exhaustive, rigorous process, and there were a lot of people who were not approved for transfer.

Okay. So there were 78 who were approved for transfer. Now – and they have been approved for transfer for more than four years now. Of the 71 who are not approved for transfer, okay, there are 10 who are actually facing charges in the military commission system or at some stage in the process with the military commissions. And of the remaining 61, 38 were determined for continued detention at that time, and another 23 were referred for prosecution. So that meant they were identified for consideration for prosecution.

Okay. So that’s the basic landscape right now in terms of the population that is there. And then there are three points that I want to highlight, and then let’s open it up for questions. And the first one is that we are making very substantial progress on those who have been approved for transfer and those who have not been approved for transfer.

And let’s start with those who have been approved for transfer. And so this is for transfer to foreign governments. There remains at the current time a ban on anybody coming to the United States for any purpose, so this is transfer to foreign governments. Since the time of the President’s speech at the National Defense University a little more than a year ago, we have transferred 12 people. In all those instances there was a 30-day notice and so on. But it’s part of this very steady, careful, systematic process of moving those who are approved for transfer, negotiating appropriate security assurances and humane treatment assurances.

In addition to the 12 who we have transferred, we are moving forward very systematically on all of those approved for transfer in terms of exploring either repatriation to their country of origin, or if that’s not feasible because of security concerns or humane treatment concerns, resettlement in a third country with appropriate security and humane treatment assurances. We’ve been very active on that front. We’ve been very pleased with the success that we’ve been making. We’ve been very grateful to the foreign governments who have been supporting us in our efforts. It’s a time-consuming process, both in terms of working things out with a foreign government, and then – and we do – we have a very careful, rigorous process within our own government in evaluating the transfers. We’ve been very pleased with the progress that we have been making. There are a significant number of transfers in the pipeline at various stages, and I think you’re going to be seeing substantial progress this year. So we’re very pleased with the progress we’re making on foreign transfers and on those approved for transfer.

Now on those not approved for transfer – and again, many or all of you may be familiar with this, but it’s very important that we have started a new administrative proceeding. For anybody who is not approved for transfer and who is not facing criminal charges, formal criminal charges in the military commission system, there is a new administrative entity, the Periodic Review Board. And it is taking a fresh look at those who were not approved for transfer to see if they now can be approved for transfer because they do not present a significant security threat to the United States. And there are representatives from the same six departments and agencies who made those determinations in 2009: DOD, the Joint Chiefs, State, Justice, Homeland Security, ODNI. And by consensus, that Periodic Review Board makes judgments about whether continued detention is warranted.

There have been seven of those hearings. The results of five of them have been announced publicly, and in three of the five cases the person who had not been approved for transfer now has been approved for transfer. And that process is continuing. And if a person is not approved for transfer, the person will receive a review – a paper review – in six months. And so one thing that is very important, and this was very important to President Obama in the executive order that he issued which set up this process, is that everybody who is there who is not approved for transfer and is not facing formal charges is regularly getting a fresh look and regularly getting an opportunity to establish that he should be approved for transfer because he is not a significant security threat to the United States.

And so on those approved for transfer, we’re moving forward on arrangements for their transfer. On those not approved for transfer who aren’t facing criminal charges, we’re moving forward with this new administrative proceeding. Okay, so that’s the first point.

The second point is briefly – and I know you’ve talked a lot about this, but it has to do with recidivism or re-engagement, because that’s something that’s in the news – activities of former Guantanamo detainees. And you sometimes hear the figure 29 percent or 30 percent as a recidivism rate or re-engagement rate. And I think it’s just very important to focus on the facts about that. And three points are particularly important with that. And the first is that when you hear somebody say 29 percent, that is combining confirmed and suspected, and those are two very different categories.

Now this is – there’s a public report that ODNI puts out on a regular basis. This is all in that two-page public report. It includes the definition of confirmed and suspected. Suspected is a much lower bar than confirmed, as you would expect. And so if you’re looking at the, quote,

29 percent, confirmed is a little more than 16 percent. And suspected is a little more than 12 percent. And – okay, so that’s the first point. It combines confirmed and suspected.

The second point is that the rates are very different for those who have been transferred in this Administration. And the demarcation that’s used in the ODNI report is post-22 January 2009. And that means those who went through that very intensive, rigorous process that I was talking about before, that sort of consensus of the six departments and entities. It also has to do with the assurances that we negotiate and the assurances that we make sure are implemented.

So the rate in – of those released or transferred in this Administration, confirmed is 6.1 percent compared to 18.6 percent of those in the previous administration. And the suspected, it’s 2.4 percent compared to 13.5 percent in the previous administration.

And the third point is that even for those who have re-engaged – and of course, everybody would like that rate to be zero – there is a significant number who are killed or captured. And so what that is an illustration of is that we and our allies and partners keep a very close eye on these people. And that’s all laid out in the ODNI report, also the numbers --

MODERATOR: We can get that around to people.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, of those who have been --

MODERATOR: Thank you for reminding me, Lesley.

QUESTION: I got your back. (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. So that’s the second point.

And the third point that I just want to emphasize is that the fundamental reasons for closing Guantanamo are very strong and remain very strong. And one important reason the President said that Guantanamo should be closed because it has become, and I quote: “a propaganda tool for our enemies and a distraction for our allies.” Now the President who said that was President George W. Bush in his memoirs.

And one of the things that that illustrates is that closing Guantanamo need not be a partisan issue; should not be a partisan issue. And in fact, there is a very strong view among President Bush and many of his top foreign policy, counterterrorism, defense officials, that Guantanamo should be closed and it’s time to turn the page on it. And as I said, those reasons remain very strong.

One of those reasons is the cost issue. And again, just to remind you, the cost at Guantanamo for each detainee who is there is $2.7 to $2.8 million a year per detainee. The comparable cost for somebody at a super-max prison in the United States, which is at the high end of detention costs, is $78,000 per year. And I think there’s also – there is a widespread recognition that in addition to a wide variety of other reasons, it simply does not make sense at this point in our history to be spending that kind of money to have this wildly expensive detention facility in Guantanamo.

So with that, I’m happy to answer any questions.

MODERATOR: Great. Guys on the phone, like I said, we’ll do the five here first just for ease’ sake, and then we’ll go to you guys. I’m going to have to step out now, so I’m going to pass it over to my colleague, [MODERATOR], to make sure everyone gets their questions. I know [SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL] is happy to take some time with you guys. So with that we’ll start from here, and then if you want to start down here, and then we’ll –

QUESTION: Go for it.

QUESTION: How do you define a substantial security risk to the United States when you are deciding which detainees who could be approved for a transfer now who weren’t before? What makes a substantial risk (inaudible) substantial?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Wait, now are you talking about in the Periodic Review Board process?

QUESTION: Yes.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. So I think it’s a significant --

MODERATOR: -- continuing --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Continuing, yes.

MODERATOR: A continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.

QUESTION: Yes. What are the factors that make one a continuing significant threat?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, and I would refer you to the sort of statements of the Periodic Review Board. It has a website where it talks about its process and things it looks for, and it also has kind of brief descriptions of the bases for its opinions. But in very general terms, it has to do with information both about the individual and the country that the individual would be going to or might be going to, what the individual’s own sort of plans or intent would be upon leaving Guantanamo. But again, I would refer you to the Periodic Review Board materials.

QUESTION: Can I ask on the substantial – you said you believed there would be substantial progress in returning the 78 who’ve been approved for transfer.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you able to give us a ballpark figure of how many you might like to see released, say, towards the – in the remainder of this year?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can’t give you a specific number, but I can just tell you that we are looking forward to substantial progress.

QUESTION: And you said that there was 10 who’ve been charged of the other group, the 71? 10?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: So that leaves 61.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: And these are the ones who’re eligible for review?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. And those hearings are ongoing, and – yes.

QUESTION: And I know you’re not talking about Bergdahl, but the five who were transferred – the Taliban people, they were in that – they would’ve been 66.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, that is correct.

QUESTION: And can you break down --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And they were in the group for continued detention, not referred for prosecution. So remember I was saying within the 61 there were 38 who were designated simply for continued detention and 23 who were referred for prosecution. They were in the continued detention group.

QUESTION: And to be under continued detention, what are the requirements for that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it’s – somebody is referred for prosecution in that 2009 process if there was a view that there was a possible criminal case that could be brought in either the – in the military commission or if federal courts were available. So the continued detention is somebody who’s not being referred for prosecution that judged – according to the judgment that was made at that time. I think the report from 2009 explains that in a little more detail.

MODERATOR: And that’s publicly available, and we can tweet that out to you all.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We can point you to the – both to the report and to the part of the report that would speak to that.

QUESTION: And if you’ve got figures, it would also be interesting to have a breakdown by nationality of the detainees still left – those approved for transfer and those who are in the 71 category.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. And I mean, I can mention that of the 78, 58 are from Yemen.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. Okay. And I had one more question as well – sorry to dominate. How much of a difficulty does it pose you in trying to close Guantanamo that you cannot transfer any of these people to the United States?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that’s a significant issue. And we’re – we worked with Congress last year on changing the law, and we were pleased that we were able to work with those in Congress to change the law on foreign transfers. The bill that came out of the Senate Armed Services Committee would have allowed transfers to the United States for emergency medical treatment and for detention and trial. And we strongly supported that bill. I mean, our preference would be that there not be legislative restrictions, but we very strongly supported the bill that came out of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And just yesterday the bill for this year came out of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and it has a similar provision in terms of allowing transfers to the United States for emergency medical treatment, and also for detention for trial, for incarceration.

QUESTION: On those that are continuing to be reviewed, has there been a discussion about how long this could go on for? I mean, could it be the next six months or the next twelve years?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh. So you’re saying if somebody is denied – if somebody is not approved for transfer through the Periodic Review Board?

QUESTION: Right.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. So at this point, there’s not a kind of maximum that’s on it. Every three years the person is entitled to an in-person hearing, which is what they’re getting now. Every six months a paper hearing, and every three years an in-person hearing. But that’s what the procedures provide at this point.

QUESTION: But it could go on indefinitely?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I’m just telling you what the procedures provide at this point. They don’t – and so they don’t set an outer limit.

QUESTION: You okay?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: On the repatriation and resettlement, is there – I’m realizing you probably can’t go into a lot of detail here, but perhaps you can sort of give us an idea of the boxes that you need checked to feel comfortable with resettlement or repatriation. Is there a case-by-case sort of (inaudible) security apparatus for each country they’re resettled in? Not talking of Bergdahl, but with these five is sort of the apparatus and the understanding for the security arrangements made in Qatar boilerplate for what we should expect for when some of these other folks in these same categories arrive in whatever country they’re then resettled in?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So in terms of security assurances – and the ultimate question is whether the risk is being substantially mitigated. And I mean, you’ve heard about that in the Bergdahl context, same standard: Is the risk is being substantially mitigated?

The security assurances in general – and we don’t get into detail about the specifics – they are – they’re very important to us in terms of a framework for a transfer, but they also are very much – can depend both on the individual and on the country. So it very much is looked at in the context – in each individual context.

QUESTION: And for those – I think it was six agencies that have to weigh in on the panel, categorize these individuals --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- are these the same groups that then get together to establish the security installation apparatus or, like, come to an understanding about it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do you mean are the six individuals in the Periodic Review Board the same --

QUESTION: Not the individuals. I mean the --

QUESTION: Who’s deciding the --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The same departments, yeah. It’s the same departments, yeah. There’s an --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) restitution and settlement.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. There’s an interagency group, the Guantanamo Detainee Transfer Working Group, and it has the six departments and entities who were involved in the 2009 process and also who are involved in the Periodic Review Board. But it’s those six that I mentioned, and that’s – they play a kind of a leading role generally on transfers, in evaluating the transfers. Now ultimately, it gets very extensively reviewed, including by the principals, and – but it’s – but there is an interagency group that has people from each of those six departments and entities.

QUESTION: So the principals of those six agencies have to sign off – is that what you’re saying – on the transfer and the terms of how they’ll be living (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I’m saying they’re involved in the decision – as you know – or let me just be clear that, of course, under law, the Secretary of Defense has to send the notification to Congress at least 30 days before, except for these exceptional circumstances in Bergdahl, but at least 30 days before, and to talk about the compelling – I’m sorry, to talk about how the risk is substantially mitigated and that it’s in the national security interests of the United States. And certainly there’s consultation among principals.

QUESTION: So just procedurally, this is talked about among the agencies. Obviously they’re going to have to deal with whatever other countries are involved – Yemen, Qatar, whomever. This memorandum of understanding comes about --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and then they go to Congress with that? Is that how it’s supposed to flow?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, no, not necessarily. Let me just – so what will happen is that we will negotiate agreement security assurances with the foreign government, and the --

QUESTION: State will?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, but with interagency involvement also. But it’s something that we’re – that obviously is a very, very important focus in terms of the kind of security assurances and so on. And so then there’s – that transfer is considered. And if approved, then the letter goes to Congress – and it’s a classified letter – explaining – setting forth the Secretary of Defense’s determination that it – that the risk has been substantially mitigated and that it’s in the national security interest of the United States.

QUESTION: So State – just to make sure I have this right, State negotiates with the interagency weighing in. Would Kerry also sign off on this before it goes over to the SecDef for his determination on whether it answers all his concerns?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don’t want to get sort of too much into the kind of details of the kind of internal, but there’s a very – there’s a --

QUESTION: Procedure, right?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There’s a strong – there’s an interagency process in considering this. There’s this interagency working group and which considers it, and then – and principals certainly are consulted on the overall transfer.

QUESTION: Did this happen – sorry, did this happen with the five Taliban?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well --

QUESTION: Or was that (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So without, I mean, getting back to – suggesting that we’re not addressing the Bergdahl transfer here. But one thing I can say, because it’s been emphasized and it is very important, is that all of the principals were involved and were consulted and supportive.

QUESTION: Hagel said that on the record.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Going to involving people and how you mentioned that the 30-day notification wasn’t followed with the five, and you also mentioned politics invariably comes into decisions that are made about Guantanamo. Can you speak a little bit about the short term? I know they were briefed last night – the Senate was – and the House briefings are planned. But if there’s any more congressional outreach and then how you see (inaudible) on the overall Administration goal (inaudible)?

And also, I believe the International Red Cross speaks to detainees before they’re repatriated or resettled, and it’s our understanding is that didn’t happen in the case of the five. Can you just go over the procedures of leaving when one is resettled or repatriated?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Let me talk about the politics. But there’s one thing in your question. You said I said politics invariably comes into it, which I don’t think I did say.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I just want to --

QUESTION: Paraphrasing. I’ll go back --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, yeah, no. But anyways – but because it raises a point that’s very important for me and that is directly responsive to your question about how we approach this, because what I try to do as a – in my position is to – and what my colleagues in the other agencies and departments do is very much focus on the facts, on a very sober, careful assessment of the facts. And we have been working in a very steady, systematic way and we really focus on the merit, and we think that the strength of the argument for transfers and for closing Guantanamo is in a – very much of a careful assessment of the facts.

And so for example, I was mentioning that the counterterrorism professionals, the foreign policy and defense professionals from the Bush Administration as well as President Bush, support closure. And I think that comes from a careful assessment of the facts. And so I think – and certainly in our planning, we try very hard to do it in a context not – of focusing on the facts. That’s our sort of sole focus and on the merits.

Now, I mentioned we’re working with Congress and we’re working with Congress on changing the law, and obviously there’s a lot of interest. But the way we work with Congress also is to focus on the facts. And as we say, I think when you focus on the facts and focus on the merit, the case for the transfer of those who are approved for transfer and the case for closing Guantanamo is very strong.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to the callers now. Is there anybody on the phone that has a question?

QUESTION: Hey, it’s Rosiland. I have a question.

MODERATOR: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, [Senior Administration Official], it’s Rosiland Jordan with Al Jazeera English. Hold on, let me take you off speaker.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay.

QUESTION: Just out of curiosity, of the 12 people who were transferred in the past year or so, did anyone from Congress object to these people being transferred? I understand the way you’ve spelled out the process. It’s coming pretty much at the end of the review process. But has anyone from Congress raised a question about transferring detainee X once they get the notification? And if so, what has been the Administration’s response?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well look, I mean, I’ll say generally we have an ongoing discussion with Congress on these issues – they’re very important issues – in both the House and the Senate and both Democrats and Republicans. And so we do have kind of ongoing discussions about kind all Guantanamo issues. And as I say – I’ll just say very generally, as I was just saying, that I think we think our strength is simply in focusing on the facts and the merits. And so certainly we’ve discussed with people in Congress, in both houses and their staff, transfers that have taken place and sort of laying out the – laying out the facts and the merits. Obviously on some Guantanamo issues there is disagreement, but we would hope that we could find common ground on moving forward as much as possible.

QUESTION: Is there a process for Congress to – this is Ben Fox – sorry – from AP. Is there a process for Congress to level some sort of objection, and do you think that’s going to happen at this point?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let’s see. In terms of how the law operates, it’s a 30-day notification. It doesn’t provide for kind of additional sort of formal steps by Congress.

QUESTION: So essentially there’s nothing Congress can do if you notify them tomorrow that you’re going to transfer detainee X, it’s too late at that point for anyone in Congress to act?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well I mean, I would just say what the law provides is that Congress gets a 30-day notice with the Secretary’s determination.

QUESTION: I know you don’t want to talk about Bergdahl in particular, but in the context of Guantanamo, do you think that this situation and the bile and the firestorm over it is going to complicate your efforts to get Congress on board to close it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well look, I mean, I’m a believer that ultimately the facts and the merits are what matter the most. And as I say, certainly is our view and it’s shared by a spectrum of people that include a lot of people from the past Administration that the facts and the merit very much compel the conclusion that Guantanamo should be closed. And so that was a point that I was trying to make. I think the fundamentals of that picture are clear, and they’re just as clear now as they were a couple of weeks ago.

QUESTION: Can you talk at all also about what’s happening with talks with Uruguay?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I can’t talk about particular cases or particular transfers. But I will say again that in general, we’ve been pleased with the progress that we’ve been able to make, and we’ve been very grateful to foreign governments for the support that they’ve been giving us.

QUESTION: Hey, it’s Carol Rosenberg. I have two quick questions. One is: Are there any unused 30-day notifications over at Congress right now for approved transfers, or have you sort of depleted all of them?

And the second one is: You said there is a significant number in the pipeline in varying stages. What is that significant number?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. Well, let’s see. So on the first question, notices to Congress are classified, and so I actually can’t answer one way or another whether there are right now.

And then – and secondly, unfortunately, I can’t get specific about what a significant number is. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: I thought --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I thought that the notice – the substance of the notices were classified, but the existences of the notice is not.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh. Well, let me say this – and thank you for the clarification. The letter is classified. The notice to Congress, when there is notice to Congress, generally is confidential when that has been send. And for a variety of reasons the general practice is that the transfer is not announced until the transfer has taken place. I mean, there are a couple of examples to the contrary, and so you’re quite right, Carol, that it’s not – the mere fact isn’t necessarily classified. But the general practice is that that remains confidential until the transfer occurs.

QUESTION: So I tried. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay.

MODERATOR: Are there any other questions by phone? Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have one more. You mentioned that the biggest block among the 78 is 58 Yemen – Yemeni.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. The biggest group, yes. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You have transferred people back to Yemen, I believe, if I’m right.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In the past. I mean --

QUESTION: So my question is: Do you anticipate transferring some of these people back to Yemen? Or alternatively, what is the holdup about trying to release them if they’ve been approved for transfer already?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So on Yemen – I mean, as I know some of you will recall, there was a moratorium on transfers to Yemen that the President had imposed in January 2010 because of the security situation in Yemen. At his speech at the National Defense University last May, he announced that he was lifting the moratorium. There have not been transfers to Yemen since then. But clearly there is obviously a very large group of people from Yemen –58 of the 78 – who are approved. And so we recognize the importance of addressing them, just like addressing everybody who’s approved for transfer. And I would just say we are exploring all options.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, of those who remain – you talked about some of them being Yemeni – the number that remain who are in or were in or had association with the Taliban? Because there were media reports today that there were other Taliban members about to be released. I believe it was Fox who had the name and had published that early today.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don’t know about the report that you’re referring to, but --

QUESTION: Fouzi Khalid Abdullah al Awda (inaudible) reporting on (inaudible).

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, okay. So not commenting on that report and not commenting about sort of characterizations with Taliban or otherwise, the report – the substance of the 2009 review, that’s not public at this time in terms of the evaluations of each. The determination is public, but the actual – it’s called the EOTF, the Executive Order Task Force report is not public. So without getting into those characterizations about who’s Taliban and who’s not, just as a general matter, I mean, I will say among – and I mean, I’ve seen some reporting on this – is that there remain the 12 Afghans at Guantanamo for – who are approved for transfer and eight who are not. So I can point to that because the nationality of the individuals has been released.

QUESTION: Twelve Afghans still at Gitmo. Eight – I’m sorry, what --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Four who have been approved for transfer, eight who have not.

QUESTION: And all of those eight are eligible for the --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: For the Periodic Review Board.

QUESTION: And the five that were, how were they selected? Can you tell us anything about that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. I mean, I think that’s a question that [Moderator] has been addressing, and so --

QUESTION: She couldn’t address it.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. Well, she took it, I think. So let me – I’ll leave it with [Moderator].

QUESTION: But can you give the nationalities of the other 16 --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- that were approved for transfer?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. I mean, we can – there’s a list that we can send you.

MODERATOR: Yeah, we’ll get you (inaudible).

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There’s a list, yeah.

QUESTION: Can I just seek clarification on what was said that the other eight are eligible for transfer – for consideration for transfer? Aren’t some of those in the bucket that could be prosecuted?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe that is the case, but they are all eligible for review by the Periodic Review Boards, which would mean that they don’t have – that they’re not facing – currently facing charges, but they’re also not currently approved for transfer.

QUESTION: Got it, thank you.

MODERATOR: Okay. Any other questions in the room?

QUESTION: Can – could you give a breakdown of how many could be – under your assessment of the law that stands, how many could be prosecuted in civilian court only?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would refer you to General Martin and to the Justice Department on that. But I think it’s a very – look, it’s a very important point just generally that if you could have transfers to the United States, it would open up the possibility of prosecution in federal court as well. But I would – as I say, I would refer you to General Martin and to the Justice Department on that.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on the second part of my question about the International Red Cross (inaudible) logistically about the repatriation or resettlement? When someone leaves Guantanamo, what steps do they go through?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Well, we very much value the work that the Red Cross does at Guantanamo. And though one thing that I’m actually not 100 percent sure of is how much we say publicly about the precise role. So let me – actually, let’s – let me just take that and get back to you.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay.

MODERATOR: Okay. No more questions by phone? All right. Thanks, everybody, for coming. Thanks for calling in.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: And we’ll be sending out a transcript later on this evening. All right. Thank you.

QUESTION: Great, thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks very much.