White House seeks to transfer two Gitmo prisoners to Algeria

The Department of Defense has notified Congress of its intention to return two Guantanamo Bay detainees to their homeland of Algeria, the White House said Friday.

“Today the Department of Defense certified to Congress its intent to repatriate an additional two detainees to Algeria,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “We are taking this step in consultation with the Congress, and in a responsible manner that protects our national security.”

The announcement came as Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) — one of the foremost proponents of closing the controversial facility — was scheduled to arrive with a delegation of other Virginia lawmakers for a tour to “raise awareness around the cost of detention ... and damage that [Guantanamo] inflicts on the reputation of the United States.”

President Obama has tried to close Guantanamo and transfer detainees to U.S. prisons, but has been blocked by Congress even as he's struggled to find other countries willing to accept the prisoners.

“As the president has said, the United States remains determined to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay,” Carney said in the statement.

“We continue to call on Congress to join us in supporting these efforts by lifting the current restrictions that significantly limit our ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo, even those who have been approved for transfer,” he added.

The facility at Guantanamo Bay has been under intense scrutiny in recent months as more than 100 detainees embarked on a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention.

The Obama administration has been criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike for force-feeding many of the protesters, some of whom have been striking since February.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) last month called on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to stop the force-feeding, saying it violated international norms and medical ethics.