The United States intends to transfer two additional detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Algeria as part of its effort to close the military prison in Cuba, the White House said Friday in a statement.
"We are taking this step in consultation with the Congress, and in a responsible manner that protects our national security," the statement from White House spokesman Jay Carney read. "We continue to call on Congress to join us in supporting these efforts by lifting the current restrictions that significantly limit our ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo, even those who have been approved for transfer."
U.S. officials will not reveal the names of the two detainees, nor any agreement reached with the Algerian government for their detention once back in Algeria.
“As a matter of long-standing policy, we do not provide the names of detainees to be transferred. The transfer will happen when all of the necessary conditions have been met," Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, press officer at the Department of Defense, said in a statement. "However, we will not discuss the sensitive, diplomatic arrangements associated with the transfer. Further, we never discuss the specifics of detainee movements for operational security reasons."
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said he supports the president's goal of closing Guantanamo Bay. The upcoming transfer, Hagel's office said in a statement, brings the U.S. closer to reaching that goal.
"Over the past few months, a very senior interagency team conducted an intensive review of this matter. Based on their recommendations, and as mandated by Congress, Secretary Hagel signed off on the legal requirements to move forward with the transfer these detainees," a statement from Pentagon press secretary George Little read.
President Barack Obama, four and a half years into his presidency, remains stymied in his vow to close the Guantanamo prison for detainees captured in the war against al-Qaeda.
A hearing of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday made clear that there remains a very wide gulf between those who agree with Obama on closing Guantanamo and those who believe doing so would be too dangerous.
The last detainee transfer occurred in September 2012, when, according to the White House, Omar Khadr was transferred to Canada, his country of origin, to serve out his remaining sentence.