Biden administration transfers Guantanamo detainee to Morocco, lowering prisoner count to 39

Guantanamo Bay
(Image credit: Thomas Watkins/AFP/Getty Images)

The Biden administration on Monday released the second Guantanamo Bay detainee since former President Barack Obama left office in 2017, including a Saudi detainee transferred to a Saudi prison under in 2018 under a plea deal. The transfer of Abdul Latif Nasser, 56, to Morocco was negotiated in 2016, near the end of the Obama administration, but former President Donald Trump halted efforts to shrink the number of prisoners at the U.S. military base in Cuba.

There are now 39 detainees at Guantanamo, including 11 charged with war crimes, 28 in limbo, and 10 who have been cleared for transfer to a country that agrees to certain security guarantees. Biden has revived a federal interagency parole-type system to evaluate whether detainees can safely be remanded to custody of another country, and the renewed review panel cleared five of the 10 detainees now awaiting security deals with foreign governments.

Nasser, a Taliban fighter captured by Pakistani forces in 2001, has been at Guantanamo since 2002 and was never charged with a crime. He was delivered to Moroccan government custody Monday, and his family has pledged to employ him at his brother's swimming pool cleaning business, his lawyer, Thomas Anthony Durkin, tells The New York Times. Durkin, based in Chicago, called the last four years of Nasser's 19 years in detention "collateral damage of the Trump administration's and zealous Republican war-on-terror hawks' raw politics," adding that "if this were a wrongful conviction case in Cook County, it would be worth $20 million."

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Obama pledged to close the Guantanamo prison but was stymied by congressional Republicans. A Biden administration official on Sunday thanked "the Kingdom of Morocco for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," but the Biden White House "has adopted a low-key approach in that effort" to "avoid igniting the same kind of backlash" Obama faced, the Times reports.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.