The Obama administration has begun a formal process of reviewing for the possibility of release the case files of dozens of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay without charges as part of renewed effort to close the prison, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
None of the parole-style hearings have been held yet with the prisoners, said Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman. But representatives of different federal agencies, including the National Intelligence Directorate and the Departments of State and Homeland Security, will be reviewing the cases of up to 71 men, including 46 the U.S. previously currently classifies as too dangerous to be released.
As of Wednesday, the Pentagon held 164 men at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, including six currently facing death-penalty war crimes tribunals and three who have been convicted of war crimes. Seventeen Guantánamo prisoners were on hunger strike Wednesday, none hospitalized and none with life-threatening conditions, said Navy Cmdr John Filostrat, the detention center spokesman.
In May, as the hunger strike spread to more than 100 prisoners, President Barack Obama renewed his vow to close the prison. He ordered it shut within a year of taking office but Congress imposed restrictions that slowed releases to a trickle.
The process is to decide “whether continued detention of certain detainees held at Guantánamo Bay remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to U.S. national security,” a Defense Department statement said.
The Pentagon said that, because some of the information used by the panels involves national security issues, information about the Periodic Review Boards will be released to the public through a new website at an undisclosed date.
“Postings will include milestones in each detainee’s case, unclassified information associated with the PRB hearings, and the results of the detainee reviews,” the statement said. “This website is currently under development and is projected to become operational later.”
Breasseale said the announcement Wednesday signaled that, even before the hearings, the Periodic Review Organization “has been stood up,” meaning the Defense Department has assigned individuals to the cases.
Breasseale said the hearings at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba could begin in the first week in November.