U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday chose high-profile Washington, D.C. attorney Clifford Sloan as the state department’s special envoy for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison.
In a May address, Obama pledged a renewed dedication to closing the prison, and filling the post, which has been vacant for six months, is an important step in doing so as the envoy has the primary responsibility of negotiating the transfer of detainees back to nations abroad.
Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that the appointment of Sloan was “a bit of a surprise.”
“People down here didn’t immediately recognize his name,” she said, “… and he’s not a career diplomat.”
Sloan’s appointment may have been an effort to lobby Capitol Hill on reducing restrictions which would allow detainees who were cleared for release in 2010 to be resettled in countries willing to accept the men, Rosenberg said.
Sloan previously served as an associate counsel to former President Bill Clinton, and was the solicitor general under former President George H.W. Bush. He has most recently worked as a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement praising Sloan for his diplomatic skills.
“I’ve known and respected Cliff Sloan for nearly ten years,” he said. “He’s someone respected by people as ideologically different as Kenneth Starr and Justice Stevens, and that’s the kind of bridge-builder we need to finish this job.”
The appointment was met with approval from other arenas, as well.
“The appointment of a new envoy at the State Department for closing Guantánamo puts in place one of the last pieces of the puzzle for getting the prison closed,” Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said Monday. “The president now has ordered the restart of transfers out of Guantánamo, lifted the moratorium on transfers to Yemen, and appointed top officials at the White House and State Department to get it done. Once President Obama makes the necessary appointment at the Pentagon to begin transferring detainees out of Guantánamo, he should immediately begin doing so. With more than half of the detainees already cleared for transfer or release, and dozens more being held without ever being charged or tried, it’s time to start sending these men home.”
The appointment comes just days after the House of Representatives on June 14 voted to keep the detention center open and funded for another year. Of the 186 detainees at Guantanamo, 86 have been cleared for transfer. There are currently 104 in custody who are taking part in a four-month hunger strike, with 44 being force fed by troops.
Watch video from Andrea Mitchell Reports below, courtesy of MSNBC.
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