President Joe Biden has quietly moved to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, NBC News reports.
The administration is keeping the effort quiet before it reaches Congress, which has rejected previous attempts to shutter the facility.
"They don't want it to become a dominant issue that blows up," a former senior administration official told NBC. "They don't want it to become a lightning rod. They want it to be methodical, orderly."
The administration aims to transfer some remaining terrorism suspects at the facility to other countries before trying to push Congress to allow it to transfer the rest of the detainees, including those suspected in the 9/11 attacks, to detention facilities inside the US.
Biden aims to close the facility by the end of his term.
Biden faces Obama-era deja vu:
Though there are only 40 detainees remaining at the facility, Biden is expected to face many of the same roadblocks that doomed former President Obama’s attempt to shutter the facility a decade earlier.
The facility was opened by President George W. Bush in 2002 and held as many as 800 detainees. That number fell to 300 by the time Obama took office.
Obama promised to shutter the facility within a year of his election but Congress rejected his attempt to transfer detainees to the US.
Obama was, however, able to reduce the number of detainees from 245 to 41 by transferring many to other countries.
Former President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the facility open.
Few detainees eligible for foreign transfer:
Only nine of the 40 detainees have been designated as eligible for transfer to foreign countries, according to NBC.
The US will still have to negotiate transfer agreements with the detainees’ home countries to move them.
Nineteen of the other detainees may be candidates for transfer. A Pentagon official told NBC that they are eligible for review and have never been charged. The review board determines whether detainees still pose a threat to the US.
If all of those are able to be transferred, it would leave the administration with at least a dozen detainees who are not eligible. 10 of them face military court action while two others have already been convicted by military commissions.