Mattis fires two top Guantanamo officials

Secretary of Defense James Mattis fired two top Guantanamo Bay officials on Monday over a “loss of confidence,” a senior defense official tells CNN.

“Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis rescinded the designations of Harvey Rishikof as the Director of the Office of the Convening Authority for Military Commissions and as the Convening Authority for Military Commissions. Additionally, William S. Castle, acting General Counsel, rescinded the designation of Gary Brown as the Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority” Pentagon spokesperson Tom Crosson said in a statement provided to CNN.

Crosson said that Mattis has appointed Jim Coyne, who currently serves as the general counsel at the Defense Logistics Agency, as the acting convening authority.

There are several hearings underway pertaining to inmates at the detention facility but the Pentagon said these personnel actions “do not impact ongoing (Office of the Convening Authority for Military Commissions) hearings and proceedings.”

The Pentagon said that Castle, in his capacity as acting general counsel, “appointed Mark Toole as Acting Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority for all military commissions except for the case of U.S. v. al-Nashiri, and appointed US Air Force Col. Matthew van Dalen as Acting Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority for the al-Nashiri commission.”

“Toole previously served as the Deputy Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority and van Dalen was previously an assistant legal advisor to the Convening Authority,” the statement said.

The Miami Herald was first to report this story.

Last week President Donald Trump signed a new executive order which called for the detention facility to be kept open and opened the door to sending new prisoners there. There is no indication at this time that the firings were related to the executive order.

The decision to keep the facility indefinitely open is a major reversal of his predecessor President Barack Obama’s policy who attempted to shutter the detention facility in his first year of office.

In December, Mattis became the first secretary of defense since the Bush administration to visit Guantanamo Bay, visiting troops there during the holidays. Officials said the visit was purely intended to boost morale and not related to the detention facility’s operations.