Hillary Clinton’s parting rebuke to Obama on Gitmo

Today, Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post released most of Hillary Clinton’s memo to Obama at the end of her tenure as secretary state about how to revive the stalled effort to close Guantanamo. Daniel Klaidman first reported the existence of this memo in a 2013 story in the old Newsweek-Daily Beast. The cover memo makes clear that the memo was drafted by Harold Koh, then the top lawyer at the State Department, Michael Posner, the department’s top human rights official, and Dan Fried, the envoy charged with negotiating Gitmo transfer deals. They recommended that Clinton sign it, and she did.

I wrote about this memo  in Power Wars on page 494, in which I also reported that Clinton said similar things to Obama in person. But the White House essentially blew her off. The gap between the White House’s stated policy and its actual bureaucratic efforts (or lack thereof) to close Gitmo in this era upset Clinton, and she delivered a parting shot to the White House in response: she rescued Fried, who was negotiating deals only to have the Pentagon, then run by Leon Panetta, refuse to approve them, from a fruitless job.

Not only did she reassign Fried to new duties, but she closed his office down rather than replacing him – a clear signal that the closure effort was dead, even if the White House insisted otherwise. And she did this without telling the White House what she was doing. They learned about the closure of Fried’s Gitmo office by reading an article I wrote about it on Jan. 28, 2013, when I found out. In the land of executive branch hierarchy and bureaucracy, that was an unmistakable f-you.

Soon afterward, Fried ran into Clinton in the hallway. This was just before she stepped down on Feb. 1.

Thank you for springing me from Gitmo, even if no one else can leave, Fried told her.

I regret this so much, Clinton replied. I’m still steamed at how all this has unfolded.


If you think this is interesting, and haven’t yet started reading Power Wars, I invite you to do so.