Three weeks after President Obama pledged to renew efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are traveling to the prison in Cuba to observe conditions there four months after detainees began a hunger strike in protest of their continued detention. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough joins them.
McCain on Friday announced the trip on Twitter, writing, “Headed down to review the situation at Guantanamo Bay prison today with @SenFeinstein and WH COS Denis McDonough.” Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council spokesperson, confirmed the trip. The senators and McDonough would be there, Hayden said, “to review the situation there and discuss the steps that we can take with the Congress to meet the president’s goal of closing the facility.”
President Obama last month reiterated earlier promises to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and transfer the men held there, but the detainees who have been cleared to leave remain in the prison in solitary confinement. Progress on the president’s previously announced plans has been slow. In March 2011, Obama signed an executive order to create periodic review boards for prisoners. Todd Breasseale, a Defense Department spokesman, confirmed to msnbc that “the review process has not been fully implemented.”
There are 166 men currently in being held at the prison, 86 of whom have been cleared for transfer elsewhere. Since the hunger strike began in February, the number of participants has grown to 104, with 41 of them being force fed nasally.
Both senators have supported closing Guantanamo Bay.