Obama suspends transfer of detainees to Yemen

The administration apparently gives in to political pressure following attempted Christmas bombing

By Alex Koppelman
Published January 5, 2010 9:15PM (EST)

Since the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas, the Obama administration has been getting some pressure about the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Much of that pressure has focused on transfers of those detainees to Yemen, where the suspect in the bombing had been and where some former detainees suspected of involvement in the attack had previously been sent.

President Obama heard from both sides of the aisle about the issue. Sens. Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and John McCain joining to write one letter urging him not to send one group of detainees to Yemen, though it turned out the six people in question had already been transferred. And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee called Yemen "too unstable" to host former detainees.

Now, the administration has decided to halt, at least temporarily, the movement of any detainees from Guantanamo to Yemen.

We are not going to make decisions about transfers that, to a country like Yemen that would, that they're not capable of handling. And I think that, while we remain committed to closing the facility, the determination has been made that right now any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Barack Obama Guantanamo Terrorism Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab War Room Yemen