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US Defense Chief Fully Supports Moving Guantanamo Detainees

Defense Secretary Ash Carter at the Pentagon, Aug. 20, 2015.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has expressed his full support for transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Carter stressed, at a press conference Thursday, there has been no pressure from the White House to transfer Guantanamo prisoners, adding "I see it exactly like the president does." Under U.S. law, the defense secretary has final authority to approve any transfers from Guantanamo.

He confirmed recent reporting by VOA that Pentagon teams are looking at sites in the United States to move prisoners currently held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

Carter said the two main sites under consideration are the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and Charleston, South Carolina's naval installation. "We're looking at other places too," he added.

The U.S. defense secretary said about 50 detainees are eligible to be transferred to other nations, but that a second group must remain "in law of war detention."

It is members of this group that would need to be placed in a U.S. facility in order to close Guantanamo, Carter explained.

A defense department spokesman told VOA last week that military personnel will consider surveying a variety of "military and civilian sites" to determine whether they can hold the law of war detainees "in a humane and secure manner."

"Only those locations that can hold detainees at a maximum security level will be considered," the spokesman said.

But prior suggestions to send the prisoners to Illinois or South Carolina have drawn strong opposition from local officials, including U.S. senators Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

Pentagon Spokesman, Captain Jeff Davis, said last week that the Pentagon hoped to hand Congress a plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility some time after the legislative branch’s August recess.

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    Mark Snowiss

    Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus