Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has picked Paul Lewis, a former House Armed Services Committee lawyer, as special envoy for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The appointment comes nearly four months after President Obama vowed to assign a special envoy to help close the prison, calling it “a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.”
“This announcement reflects the department’s commitment to implementing the president’s directive to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay,” Hagel said in a statement on Tuesday.
There are currently 164 prisoners at Guantanamo — 17 of them are on a hunger strike, according to the Miami Herald.
“Special Envoy Lewis brings a wealth of experience from his previous position as the Minority General Counsel of the House Armed Services Committee where he oversaw Guantanamo related issues. In addition to facilitating transfer determinations for Guantanamo detainees, he will oversee efforts to transfer third country nationals currently held by the United States in Afghanistan.
Lewis previously worked as general counsel for the House Armed Services Committee, was director of the Office of Legislative Counsel in DoD’s Office of the General Counsel, and served as counsel to the Chairman of the House Ethics Committee. After graduating from Notre Dame Law School in 1983, Lewis served as a judge advocate in the Marine Corps, Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office and was a trial attorney in the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the Justice Department. He also teaches ethics at Georgetown University.
Lewis will start the job on Nov. 1.
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