In this 2013 file photo reviewed by the U.S. military, dawn arrives at the now closed Camp XRay, which was used as the first detention facility for al-Qaida and Taliban militants who were captured after the Sept. 11 attacks at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

In this 2013 file photo reviewed by the U.S. military, dawn arrives at the now closed Camp XRay, which was used as the first detention facility for al-Qaida and Taliban militants who were captured after the Sept. 11 attacks at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is taking another look at the military prison in Kansas and the Navy Brig in South Carolina as it evaluates potential U.S. facilities to house detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, part of the Obama administration’s controversial push to close the detention center.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said a team was surveying the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth on Friday and will do a similar assessment at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston later this month. Davis said the team will assess the costs associated with construction and other changes that would be needed in order to use the facility to house the detainees as well as conduct military commission trials for those accused of war crimes.

The closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been a top priority for President Barack Obama, who pledged on his first day in office to shut it down. But that effort has faced persistent hurdles, including staunch opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in Congress and ongoing difficulties transferring out the dozens of detainees who have been cleared to leave.

Officials have to identify countries to take the detainees and must get assurances that they will be appropriately monitored and will not pose a security threat.

About 52 of the 116 current detainees have been cleared for release, but Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his predecessors have made it clear they will not release any detainees until they have all the needed security assurances. The remaining 64 have been deemed too dangerous to be released.

The latest surveys come a week after a draft Pentagon plan to provide potential locations for the detainees was stymied when the administration said the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois was off the table, according to officials. The draft plan had focused largely on Thomson and Charleston, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The officials said that early versions of the Pentagon report had made it clear that Thomson and Charleston were the most viable choices based on costs and the timeline needed to renovate the facilities to the maximum security levels required. Officials have acknowledged, however, that there were divisions within the Pentagon and across the administration over which military and federal facilities to highlight and how many options to assess and include in the report.

At the Aspen Institute’s recent national security conference in Colorado, Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security adviser, said the administration wants to move out the 52 detainees. But, she added, “That doesn’t mean just unlocking the door and having someone go willynilly to another country. … It means a painstaking establishment of security protocols that would govern the transfer of that individual.”

Davis said that there are other sites, in addition to those in Kansas and South Carolina, that the team will visit. Although previous surveys and reviews have been done of many of the prison facilities, Davis said the latest visits are aimed at getting consistent evaluations and establishing a baseline of information.

He said the assessments will cover a range of factors, including the costs associated with holding the additional detainees, holding the military trials, engineering and construction, force protection, housing for troops and security. Transportation and other operating issues also are factors.

The assessments, he said, will help determine which facilities can be considered potential candidates to house the detainees.

While the team is looking first at some military detention centers, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is also identifying potential civilian facilities.


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