Three weeks ago yesterday, in his NDU speech, President Obama announced:
I’m appointing a new senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries.
Obviously, the President was responding to the criticism that former Guantanamo envoy and unsung hero Dan Fried (who slogged away for four years without much White House support) had taken on new duties earlier this year and had not been replaced. But the grammar and meaning of the President’s statement were opaque at the time. Did the President mean he was appointing one envoy, or two? If two, how would they work together?
But more important, where are these envoys? The word on the street is that the White House not only had not selected the envoys at the time of the President’s speech but had not even consulted the Departments of State and Defense. Now the Administration is having difficulty filling the two positions.
Although I am sure the White House will make good on the President’s pledge sooner or later, it seems to me that at the time it was made the announcement was largely rhetorical and not carefully thought out.
Before anyone cries hypocrisy, I would note that I (and Matt Waxman and others) worked quite hard to close Guantanamo in the second term of the Bush Administration. At the time President Obama ordered the closure of Guantanamo, I applauded the decision, but warned that it would be harder than he thought.