Paul Lewis, a former Marine and chief counsel to the minority House Armed Services Committee, will fill the post of Pentagon special envoy for closure of the military prison in Cuba, a position President Barack Obama created four months ago but had yet to fill, The Miami Herald reported Monday.
Lewis will report to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his sole job will be tackling the complex legal problems surrounding the prison's closure -- particularly what to do with the prisoners housed there. Lewis will work with his counterpart at the State Department, Clifford Sloan.
"The secretary will announce today the appointment of Paul M. Lewis to the position of special envoy for Guantanamo closure," Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. "This announcement reflects the department's commitment to implementing the president's directive to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay."
The task won't be easy. At various points over the last year more than 100 of the 164 prisoners -- many suspected of terrorism but who have never faced trial -- have staged hunger strikes and have been force-fed by guards using nasal tubes. Congress has passed laws prohibiting the transfer of detainees classified as enemy combatants domestically and many foreign governments are reticent to accept prisoners back.
The prison opened under the George W. Bush administration in 2002.
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