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Defense Sec. Hagel appoints Guantanamo Bay envoy

Oct. 8, 2013 at 10:43 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Department said Tuesday it appointed a veteran House Armed Services Committee counsel to oversee the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced he appointed Paul Lewis to serve as special envoy for the closure of the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Lewis oversaw issues related to the prison when he served as a general counsel at the House Armed Services Committee.

He'll oversee the prison's closure and the transfer of prisoners to host countries. President Obama restated his commitment to closing the detention center during his September address to the U.N. General Assembly. The facility houses high-profile terrorist like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida attacks on the United States.

Al-Qaida leader Abu Anas al-Liby was secured by U.S. forces in a raid in Libya last weekend. The Defense Department said he'd be brought to the United States, not the Guantanamo Bay prison, to face trial.

Hagel said Tuesday most Defense Department personnel returned to work this week though cash payments to the family members of service members killed in action were halted because of the partial government shutdown. Emergency funding for intelligence activities remains unavailable.

Bipartisan disputes over a budget deal forced a partial government shutdown last week. The U.S. government is expected to exceed its $16.7 trillion federal debt ceiling Oct. 17.

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