By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and two leading senators will travel to the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on Friday to consider how to meet Obama’s vow to move detainees and close the facility, a White House spokeswoman said.
Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, will travel to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo with Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and John McCain, a top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The trio will “review the situation there and discuss the steps that we can take with the Congress to meet the President’s goal of closing the facility,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
Both McCain of Arizona and Feinstein of California have long argued that the prison should be closed. But other lawmakers have blocked the move, arguing the administration has not offered satisfactory alternatives on what to do with the detainees.
Obama last month pledged to lift a ban imposed on transfers of detainees to Yemen from the prison, one of the core obstacles to clearing out the detention camp.
Of the 86 detainees who have been cleared for transfer or release, 56 are from Yemen, where al Qaeda has a dangerous presence. There are 80 more prisoners at the camp who are not cleared and an unknown number of those are Yemeni as well.
More than 100 prisoners in the camp have joined a hunger strike to protest the failure to resolve their fate after more than a decade of detention, and 41 are being force-fed through tubes inserted into their noses and down into their stomachs because they have lost so much weight.
(Additional reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami; Editing by Vicki Allen)
[The Northeast gate marks the end of U.S. soil as the road leads into Cuba at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base]