WASHINGTON - Cliff Sloan has represented Jon Bon Jovi's band in legal matters and argued cases before the US Supreme Court. Now, he has perhaps his toughest assignment: Helping to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Washington attorney was named on Monday as the State Department's Guantanamo Bay envoy, a central player in President Barack Obama's renewed push to make good on a 2008 campaign promise to shut the installation where the United States holds terrorism suspects. Obama wants to close the facility because it is a legacy of the Bush administration that he feels has damaged the US reputation with allies around the world.
The most pressing demand for Sloan, who has deep legal skills but little foreign policy experience, will be to serve as the lead negotiator for the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees abroad, a task fraught with difficulty.
Obama last month lifted a ban on the transfer of prisoners to Yemen. Of 166 detainees at Guantanamo, 86 have been cleared for transfer or release and 56 of those are from Yemen, where al Qaeda has a dangerous foothold. Adding to the pressure to deal with the prison is the fact that more than 100 detainees are on a hunger strike.
The fear among many lawmakers is that those sent to Yemen or elsewhere would return quickly to the battlefield and plot attacks against the United States.