Biden’s bid to close Guantanamo prison camp begins with transfer of single detainee to Morocco

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CLOSING GITMO: President Joe Biden has picked up where President Barack Obama left off, resuming a policy of finding foreign countries to take custody of prisoners currently held at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the goal of eventually closing down the detention facility.

Yesterday, the Pentagon announced the transfer of Abdul Latif Nasir to Morocco, completing a process that had been halted by President Donald Trump. In 2016, Nasir’s detention under the law of war was found to be no longer “necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States,” by a special review panel.

The transfer brings the number of detainees at Guantanamo to 39, with 10 additional prisoners cleared for transfer to other countries once suitable arrangements are made. Countries that accept transfers of U.S. prisoners must promise to treat them humanely and agree to take steps to ensure they do not pose a further security threat.

“The Biden administration remains dedicated to a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantanamo facility,” said a senior administration official on a background call with reporters.

BIDEN HOPES TO CLOSE GITMO, BUT WHERE DOES HE SEND THE BAD GUYS?

WHO DECIDES? President Barack Obama established the Periodic Review Board process in 2011 as a way to decide which prisoners no longer posed a threat to the United States. The board is made up of one senior career official from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State, along with the Joint Staff and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“In making a determination as to the eligibility for transfer, the board is given access to a comprehensive, up-to-date assessment of the information about the detainee, information submitted in any previous PRB hearings, any statements from the detainee, family members, and the detainee's personal representative,” said a senior White House official yesterday. “The PRB assesses that information together with the detainee's testimony at the hearing, should he choose to participate, to determine whether continued detention remains necessary to address a continuing significant threat.”

In repatriating Nasir to his native country of Morocco, the U.S. has “undertaken a responsible transfer,” the official said.

DEBATE IN CONGRESS: With Democrats nominally in control of Congress, efforts to mandate the closing of Guantanamo have been given new life.

The House Appropriations Committee has just passed an early version of the 2022 Pentagon budget that contains language cutting off funding for the Guantanamo prison past Sept. 30 of next year, but it is unclear if the provision could win support in the Senate.

For years, provisions on the annual defense policy bill have prohibited the transfer of any prisoners at Guantanamo to U.S. soil, or to Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen.

Housing the so-called forever prisoners, the ones judged too dangerous to release but without sufficient admissible evidence to convict at trial, would be far cheaper at a U.S. supermax prison, but that could give prisoners access to U.S. courts to challenge their detention and possibly win release.

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HAPPENING TODAY: Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meet with Jordanian King Abdullah II at the State Department. In the afternoon, Blinken and Austin are then scheduled to attend a Cabinet meeting at the White House to mark Biden’s six months in office.

AUSTIN TO ASIA: The Pentagon has announced Austin will leave Friday for travel to Singapore, Hanoi, and Manila, a sort of make-up trip for the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that had to be canceled last month because of the rise in COVID cases.

Instead, Austin will participate in the Fullerton Lecture Series in Singapore, which is hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which also sponsors the annual Shangri-La Dialogue. Austin will be able to meet with many of the same regional leaders he would have at the canceled event.

“Secretary Austin’s visit will demonstrate the importance the Biden-Harris Administration places on Southeast Asia and on ASEAN as an essential part of the Indo-Pacific’s architecture,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “This trip will underscore the enduring U.S. commitment to the region, and our interest in upholding the rules-based international order in the region and promoting ASEAN centrality.”

AFGHANS TO FORT LEE: Fort Lee, a sprawling Army base south of Richmond, Virginia, will be the first stop for the first 2,500 Afghans evacuated under “Operation Allies Refuge,” the Biden administration program to award special immigrant visas to interpreters and other workers who aided the U.S. over the past 20 years.

At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby said Fort Lee was offered up after a request by the State Department and could be just the first of several U.S. military installations used as processing locations for Afghan visa applicants, expected to eventually number in the tens of thousands.

Kirby called Fort Lee “a temporary host installation,” where he said the Afghans would complete the final steps of the visa process, “such as final medical screenings and administrative requirements.”

While the base has a range of housing accommodations, including barracks and dorms, Kirby said it’s expected the applicants will remain at the base for only a few days. “You have to remember that these people and their families are in the very final stages of the SIV process, so there's just not a need for them to be on a military installation for long before they'll work through the resettlement process.”

WESTERN DIPLOMATS PLEAD FOR TALIBAN TO HALT OFFENSIVE AS US EVACUATIONS OF AFGHAN EMPLOYEES BEGINS

PEACE TALKS RESUME: Even as the Taliban continue to rack up battlefield gains, their leaders insist they are sincere in seeking a peace deal. Talks resumed over the weekend in Doha, Qatar.

“The United States welcomes the talks ... and the commitment the two sides have declared to accelerate negotiations towards an inclusive political settlement,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price in a statement. “Only a negotiated settlement can bring a lasting end to over 40 years of conflict in Afghanistan.”

CALLING OUT CHINA ON MICROSOFT HACK: The Biden administration and its European allies, including NATO, are directly accusing China of “destabilizing and irresponsible behavior in cyberspace,” including ransomware attacks from “government-affiliated cyber operators” that have demanded millions of dollars from private companies.

“The United States government, alongside our allies and partners, has formally confirmed that cyber actors affiliated with the [Ministry of State Security] exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server in a massive cyber espionage operation that indiscriminately compromised thousands of computers and networks,” said a Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“My understanding is that the Chinese government, not unlike the Russian government, is not doing this themselves but are protecting those who are doing it, and maybe even accommodating them being able to do it,” President Joe Biden said yesterday.

Asked why he was “naming and shaming” the Chinese but not imposing any sanctions or penalties, Biden said, “They are still determining exactly what happened. The investigation is not finished,” noting he was due to get a “detailed report” on the matter today.

In a statement, the White House accused China of fostering “an intelligence enterprise that includes contract hackers who also conduct unsanctioned cyber operations worldwide, including for their own personal profit.”

“The PRC’s unwillingness to address criminal activity by contract hackers harms governments, businesses, and critical infrastructure operators through billions of dollars in lost intellectual property, proprietary information, ransom payments, and mitigation efforts,” the statement said.

China has rejected the accusation, with a foreign ministry saying, “The United States ganged up with its allies to make unwarranted accusations against Chinese cybersecurity.”

“This was made up out of thin air and confused right and wrong. It is purely a smear and suppression with political motives,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian, according to the Associated Press.

US BLAMES CHINA FOR MICROSOFT HACK AND OTHER CYBER SCHEMES BUT DOESN’T IMPOSE SANCTIONS

The Rundown

Washington Examiner: US blames China for Microsoft hack and other cyber schemes but doesn’t impose sanctions

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AP: Capitol rioter who breached Senate gets 8 months for felony

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Calendar

TUESDAY | JULY 20

9 a.m. — Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association virtual discussion with Steve Mapes, chief of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency's Office of Small Business Programs. https://afceanova.swoogo.com/July2021SmallBuisnessBreakfast

9 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Cross-Strait Relations After the 20th Party Congress,” with Kathrin Hille, Greater China correspondent at the Financial Times; Ryan Hass, chair in the Brookings Institution's Foreign Policy Program; Jude Blanchett, chair in China studies at CSIS; and Bonny Lin, director of the CSIS China Power Project, https://www.csis.org/events/cross-strait-relations-after-20th-party-congress

9 a.m. — Henry L. Stimson Center virtual discussion: “Voices from Japan: U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation in the Maritime Domain,” with former Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Adm. Tomohisa Takei; and former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. https://www.stimson.org/event/voices-from-japan

9:30 p.m. 106 Russell — Senate Armed Services Subcommittees continue markups of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, with open hearings by the subcommittees on readiness and management support, and at 11 a.m. on personnel; followed by closed hearings by the subcommittees on airland, emerging threats and capabilities, and seapower. https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings

10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: “Non-Governmental Views on the Fiscal Year 2022 Department of Defense Budget,” with Stacie Pettyjohn, senior fellow and director, Defense Program, Center for a New American Security; Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information, Project on Government Oversight; Roger Zakheim, director, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

10 a.m. — National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations virtual discussion on a new report, "Iran and U.S. strategy: Looking Beyond the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” author Anthony Cordesman, chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; David Des Roches, associate professor at the National Defense University; and John Duke Anthony, founding president of NCUSAR. https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event

10:15 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “The Future of Belarus,” with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of the Belarus democratic opposition; U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher; Amna Nawaz, chief correspondent at PBS NewsHour, and Melinda Haring, deputy director of the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/the-future-of-belarus

12 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion on "lessons for U.S. foreign policy,” with former White House Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, author of "After the Fall: Being American in the World We've Made." https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “Showdown at the International Atomic Energy Agency: The Future of Iran's Nuclear Program,” with David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security; former IAEA Deputy Director-General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen, fellow at the Stimson Center; and Joshua Block, adjunct fellow at Hudson. https://www.hudson.org/events

1:30 p.m. — Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies releases new policy paper, “Speed is Life: Accelerating the Air Force’s Ability to Adapt and Win,” with Tim Grayson, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Strategic Technology Office. https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register

2 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel hearing: “The Findings and Recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military,” with Kathleen Hicks, deputy secretary of defense; Lynn Rosenthal, chair, Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military; Meghan Tokash, member, Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military; retired Maj. Gen. James Johnson, member, Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military; and Kyleanne Hunter, member, Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

2 p.m. — U.S. Navy Memorial “SITREP series” virtual discussion with Adm. Robert Burke, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe/U.S. Naval Forces Africa, and commander of Allied Joint Forces Command Naples. https://www.navymemorial.org/new-events

7 p.m. — Institute for Corean American Studies virtual Summer Symposium Veritas on "The Korean Peninsula Issues and the ROK-U.S. Alliance,” with Byung Joo Kim, former deputy commander of ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/icas-summer-symposium

WEDNESDAY | JULY 21

9 a.m. — American Institute for Contemporary German Studies virtual discussion: “Communiques and Capabilities: Making the Aspirations of NATO and U.S.-Europe Summits a Reality,” with Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for European and NATO Policy Spencer Boyer; Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius; Cathryn Cluver Ashbrook, director and CEO of the German Council on Foreign Affairs; former NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow, fellow at the Atlantic Council; and Jeff Rathke, president of AICGS. https://www.aicgs.org/events/2021/07/communiques-and-capabilities

12 p.m. — McCain Institute virtual book discussion: "Homegrown; ISIS in America,” author Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the George Washington University Program on Extremism; and Brette Steele, senior director of preventing targeted violence at the McCain Institute. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/authors-insights

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “The Future of Industrial Cybersecurity,” with Joshua Steinman, former deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs and senior director for cyber security and Ezra Cohen, Hudson Institute adjunct fellow and former acting Defense undersecretary for intelligence and security. https://www.hudson.org/events/1988-virtual-event

3 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations hearing: “Review of the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for U.S. Special Operations Forces and Command,” with Joseph McMenamin, PTDO assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict; and Gen Richard Clarke, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

3:30 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Modern Mobilization: Defense-Industrial Preparedness for Great-Power Conflict,” Brennan Grignon, supply chain lead at the Defense Department's Office of Industrial Policy; Mark Cancian, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies' International Security Program; James Hasik, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Center for Strategy and Security; and Steven Grundman, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Center for Strategy and Security. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event

8.p.m. Cincinnati, Ohio — President Joe Biden takes part in a town hall event moderated by CNN anchor Don Lemon. Live on CNN and CNN.com

THURSDAY | JULY 22

9:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion on U.S.-Korean relations, with former Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox, assistant director for policy and analysis at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory https://www.csis.org/events/korea-chair-capital-cable-30-christine-fox

10:30 a.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual discussion: “Enhancing Deterrence in the Indo-Pacific," with Patty-Jane Geller, policy analyst for nuclear deterrence and missile defense at Heritage; and Brent Sadler, senior fellow for naval warfare and advanced technology at Heritage. https://www.heritage.org/defense/event

11 a.m. — Jewish Institute for National Security of America webinar: “Drone Wars: The Spread of Unmanned Tech on Today’s Battlefield,” with journalist Seth Frantzman, author of the new book Drone Wars; and Charles Perkins, JINSA Director for U.S.-Israel Security Policy. https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register

12 p.m. — McCain Institute virtual conversation with former U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former British Prime Minister Theresa May. https://asu.zoom.us

12 p.m. — Institute for Defense and Government Advancement virtual discussion: “Laser Weapons Today and Tomorrow,” with Evan Hunt, director of high energy lasers and counter-unmanned aerial systems at Raytheon Intelligence and Space; Michael Jirjis, directed energy experimentation lead at the Air Force Research Laboratory; and Craig Robin, director of the Army's Directed Energy Project Office. https://www.defenceiq.com/army-land-forces/webinars

1 p.m. — Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments webinar on it new report: “Implementing Deterrence by Detection: Innovative Capabilities, Processes, and Organizations for Situational Awareness in the Indo-Pacific Region,” with authors Thomas Mahnken, Travis Sharp, Christopher Bassler, Bryan Durkee; and CSBA Council member Chris Brose. https://csbaonline.org/about/events

FRIDAY | JULY 23

11 a.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual discussion: “How Congress Can help America Get More Out of Our Defense Dollars,” with Philip Candreva, senior lecturer of budgeting and public policy at the Naval Postgraduate School; Eric Lofgren, senior fellow at George Mason University's Center for Government Contracting; and Frederico Bartels, senior policy analyst for defense budgeting at Heritage. https://www.heritage.org/defense/event

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “Transforming Defense for a Competitive Era.” with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; Jay Dryer, director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Strategic Capabilities Office; former Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy, co-founder and managing partner at WestExec Advisers; and Dan Patt, adjunct fellow at the Hudson Center for Defense Concepts and Technology. https://www.hudson.org/events/1991-virtual-event

3 p.m. — Woodrow Wilson Center Kissinger Institute on China and the United States virtual discussion: “The Selling of a Centennial, 2021: What the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) Propaganda Reveals About the CCP,” Anne-Marie Brady, professor at the University of Canterbury; Aynne Kokas, associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia; Maria Repnikova, assistant professor of global communications at Georgia State University; and Robert Daly, director of the WWC Kissinger Institute. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/selling-centennial-2021

THURSDAY | JULY 29

10 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in-person event: “America’s ever-shrinking fighting force,” with Mackenzie Eaglen, senior fellow, AEI; Arnold Punaro, former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee and CEO, Punaro Group; and former Sen. Jim Talent, senior fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center. https://www.aei.org/events/americas-ever-shrinking-fighting-force


QUOTE OF THE DAY

“That was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a protest. It was … an assault on democracy … It left a stain that will remain on us … on the country for years to come.”

Federal Judge Randolph Moss sentencing Paul Allard Hodgkins to eight months in federal prison for his part in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

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Original Author: Jamie McIntyre

Original Location: Biden’s bid to close Guantanamo prison camp begins with transfer of single detainee to Morocco

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