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Revealed: Pentagon Blocking Release of Cleared Guantánamo Detainees

Exclusive reporting by the Guardian reveals that the U.S. government is intentionally "dragging its feet" on allowing Shaker Aamer, others to go home

Demonstrators call for the release of cleared Guantanamo Bay detainee Shaker Aamer. (Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

The U.S. Pentagon is blocking the release of Guantánamo Bay detainees who have been cleared to return home through diplomatic deals between the U.S. and UK governments, the Guardian revealed on Thursday in an exclusive report.

Among those detainees is Shaker Aamer, a Saudi citizen and UK resident who has been held at the U.S. military base in Cuba for more than 13 years without charge and has twice been cleared for release. In 2010, the Pentagon itself participated in a federal review of Aamer's case, as well as that of another detainee, both of whom were deemed to pose no threat to national security and cleared to go home.

But as one official told the Guardian, the U.S. government's defense secretaries have been playing "foot-dragging and process games" to keep the diplomatic deals that secured his release from going through.

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The Guardian reports:

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter, backed by powerful US military officers, have withheld support for sending Aamer back to the UK. The ongoing obstruction has left current and former US officials who consider the detainees a minimal threat seething, as they see it undermining relations with Britain and other foreign partners while subverting from the inside Obama’s long-stifled goal of closing the infamous detention facility.

[....] The transfers have the backing of the US Justice Department, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

But since White House rules depend on full administration consensus, Aamer remains at Guantánamo until Carter and the Pentagon say otherwise.

The Pentagon is also blocking the release of Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania and Abdul Shalabi of Saudi Arabia. Carter has yet to sign the diplomatic deals already brokered between the U.S. and the men's home countries which would enable their release.

Aamer's case has drawn widespread support from human rights groups and peace activists. A campaign for his release, which operates under the banner Save Shaker Aamer, stages regular actions and protests to call attention to his continued illegal detention. According to legal charity Reprieve, which represents Aamer, he has been subject to force-feedings, solitary confinement, and beatings by guards up to eight times a day while in custody at Guantánamo Bay.

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