By Catherine Herridge, ,
Published December 23, 2015
State Department communications leaked by WikiLeaks show that eight months after President Obama signed the executive order to close the detention camps at Guantanamo Bay -- one of his first acts as president -- diplomats concluded that was a mission impossible.
In September 2009, with half of the remaining detainees being from Yemen, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan met with the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who suggested putting all of his countrymen in Yemeni prisons.
But in a later cable, a U.S. diplomat noted, "Saleh would, in our judgment, be unable to hold returning detainees in jail for any more than a matter of weeks before public pressure -- or the courts -- forced their release."
Proposals to send the Yemenis to a rehab center in their native country fell flat partly because of Yemeni demands for $11 million to fund it. After a video released in early 2009 showed a former detainees and Saudi rehab grad leading Al Qaeda in Yemen, new questions arose about whether detainees could be reformed.
At the State Department Tuesday, spokesman P.J. Crowley would not characterize the cables.
"I'm not going to comment on what's in the paper. We are committed to closing Guantanamo," he said.
The cables also show there was a major diplomatic push to find a home for the Uighurs, ethnic Chinese Muslims, who were cleared for release. In June 2009, four of the men transferred to Bermuda told Fox News through an translator that life in China was worse than life in Guantanamo.
"Of course it's China," the detainees agreed. "There is no guarantee for any human lives there."
The WikiLeaks documents do not shed any light on whether Bermuda was offered incentives to take the men. To clear Guantanamo of the remaining Uighurs at Camp Iguana and others, Belgium was told that resettling detainees would be a "low-cost way ... (to) attain prominence in Europe."
In another cable, a former detainee, Mozaam Begg, a British national who now lobbies European governments to resettle detainees, is praised by the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Begg "is doing our work for us," the document reads.
The Bush administration did some horsetrading too. As Fox News was first to report in the fall of 2008, five Uighurs were transferred from Guantanamo to Albania two years earlier -- after the Albanian government was offered incentives, including cash, to take them.
Less than a week after the transfer, then Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed NATO membership aspirations of three nations, including Albania.