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Hagel appoints Guantánamo Bay envoy

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelTrump’s bogus use of cyber threats to prop up coal GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Overnight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal MORE on Tuesday appointed a new point person to close the Guantánamo Bay prison. 

The Obama administration named Paul Lewis, a congressional lawyer, as special envoy for closing Guantánamo. He will start in the position Nov. 1.

Lewis joins Clifford Sloan, who was named as the State Department’s Guantánamo envoy in June. The two will lead the administration's efforts to close the detention facility.

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President Obama promised to close Guantánamo during his 2008 campaign, and in one of his first moves as president, issued a directive for it to be closed. 

But the president's efforts ran into a wall in Congress, where lawmakers objected to moving prisoners to the United States. It also became difficult to move some prisoners to other countries. 

The president has renewed his efforts this year, and Lewis will be filling a vacant position created by Obama four months ago.

Lewis will be tasked with facilitating transfers out of Guantánamo, as well as overseeing the transfer of detainees held by the United States in Afghanistan.

He is currently minority general counsel for the House Armed Services Committee, where he works on Guantánamo-related issues.

On Monday, a group of 18 civil liberties, human rights and religious groups wrote to Obama urging him to fill the Guantánamo post at the Pentagon.

The groups said the unfilled Pentagon position led to “a leadership void within the Defense Department, which has delayed decisions and actions needed to reduce the population at Guantánamo by transferring cleared detainees to foreign countries that will respect their human rights.”

Since May, two detainees have been transferred from Guantánamo, reducing the population to 164, including 84 detainees who are cleared for transfer.

Attitudes toward closing the detention facility in Congress have gone largely unchanged since May, when Obama lifted a moratorium on transfers to Yemen.

The House has held several votes defeating attempts to ease Guantánamo transfer restrictions and passed an amendment specifically restricting transfers to Yemen.