The rules have prohibited transfers to countries where detainees who have been released previously have re-engaged in terrorism. That includes Kuwait, a key U.S. ally that has been lobbying for the return of its two remaining detainees and has built a still unused rehabilitation center to peacefully reintegrate them.
There’s also been a prohibition on transferring detainees to countries that the United States has declared a state sponsor of terrorism. Guantanamo houses three Syrians who have been approved for transfer but would be barred from going home under the current rules. Sudan’s government says its two remaining detainees were heading home Wednesday — one has completed a sentence after a conviction on terrorism charges and the other is so ill he’s unlikely to pose a threat and was recently ordered released by a judge. Court ordered transfers are excluded from the congressional restrictions; otherwise the administration would not have been able to send even a debilitated prisoner home to certain countries.
The congressional deal lifts those restrictions and allows transfers for those detainees who have been approved when the administration determines the transfer is in the national security interests of the U.S.
Administration officials say they are working with foreign governments to negotiate terms of transfers so there won’t be a big movement overnight.
“The president directed the administration to responsibly reduce the detainee population to the greatest extent possible, and we would welcome much needed flexibility in this area,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. “But even in the absence of transfer restrictions, our longstanding policy is to transfer detainees only if the threat posed by the detainee can be sufficiently mitigated and when consistent with our humane treatment policy.”