Pentagon transfers five from Guantanamo


The Pentagon announced Sunday evening that it has transferred five Guantanamo detainees to the United Arab Emirates, just ahead of President Obama signing a defense bill that would place restrictions on moving prisoners from the facility.

"The United States is grateful to the Government of the United Arab Emirates for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook. 

"The United States coordinated with the Government of the United Arab Emirates to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures."

The transferred detainees are Ali Ahmad Muhammad al-Razihi, Khalid Abd-al-Jabbar Muhammad Uthman al-Qadasi, Adil Said al-Hajj Ubayd al-Busays, Sulayman Awad Bin Uqayl al-Nahdi and Fahmi Salem Said al-Asani.  

The five men are Yemenis who had been held for more than a decade at the detention facility, with ages ranging from 38 to 46, according to The Washington Post.

The release brings the total detainee population at the detention facility in Cuba down to 107, approaching the White House's goal of reaching 100 by the end of the year. 

It also comes before Obama signs the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which will make it harder to transfer the detainees.

Obama is running out of time to close Guantanamo before leaving office. His administration is poised to send Congress a plan for closing the facility and bringing the remaining detainees to a prison in the United States.

Republicans have signaled that Obama's plan will be dead on arrival in Congress and have warned the president not to attempt to close the prison through an executive order. 

The five Yemenis moved over the weekend were unanimously approved for transfer by an interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force comprised of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

The release brings the list of detainees approved for transfer down to 48. The majority on that list — 39 — are Yemenis, but due to congressional restrictions as well as ongoing conflict in Yemen, they cannot be released to their country. 

A total of 64 out of the remaining 107 detainees are Yemeni, according to The Post.  

If Obama closes the facility by executive order, he would do so in defiance of laws passed by Congress that explicitly bar him from transferring Guantanamo detainees into the country.

The fate of an executive action would come down to the courts, where Republicans and the White House would likely do battle over the Article II powers that the Constitution grants to the commander in chief.