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24 June 2004

Status of Detainees in Guantanamo To Be Reviewed Annually

Navy Secretary says foreign governments, families will have input

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Writer

Washington -- Navy Secretary Gordon England, newly named to oversee an annual administrative review of the status of individuals detained at Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, says his role is to push the review process along.

The Defense Department named England June 23 to be the designated civilian defense official to oversee the process to determine if the detainees -- also referred to as enemy combatants -- should be released, transferred to their country of origin, or continue to be held in U.S. military custody.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on the day of the announcement delineating his additional duties, England said it is important for the administrative -- not legal -- review to take place as rapidly as possible. "I view myself as an advocate to make this happen sooner rather than later," he added.

The secretary also highlighted the need for the review to occur "with transparency." Asked how the process could be transparent if the classified proceedings are not open to the press, England said while it is not possible to have every aspect of the board hearing be open "you can have the process (be) open." He said there is "great value" in having the process itself be "very transparent" so that everyone understands precisely how it works. The secretary also noted that there are privacy issues related to publicizing information about the detainees that must be respected.

England said individuals would continue to be detained if they still posed a threat to the United States, or, if they possessed valuable intelligence information.

The secretary said he has sought comment from a variety of government and non-government organizations on how the review process should best be organized. He said he has met with representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and the American Bar Association, as well as the Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Justice, the Central Intelligence Agency and with members of Congress. Deadline for comment is June 28.

At that point, data on the detainees will begin to be collected and the first review board could be held in a matter of weeks, England said. "Our approach is to make this process very fair, clear, precise and transparent," he said.

The review board, which will make recommendations to England regarding each detainee, will collect information from U.S. government agencies, foreign governments, and family members, as well as from detainees themselves. The board will not make a recommendation regarding guilt or innocence. It will only recommend to England on the issue of release, transfer or continued custody.

The first review board -- composed of three military officers -- will begin seeking information from other governments about their citizens (some of whom have been detained as long as two years) as early as next week. The military officers assigned to this duty are not lawyers, however, the presiding board member will be senior officer such as a Navy captain (colonel level) and the other members will be majors or lieutenant commanders.

Some detainees were released from the Guantanamo detention facility before this process was established. All who are there now will be reviewed under this process within one year, according to England's orders.

Queried about the timing of the announcement by a reporter who suggested it had the appearance of "damage control by the administration," the secretary said plans for the administrative review had actually been underway for some time. "It just happens it's finally coming to fruition now," he said.

Asked how he can handle his responsibilities for the entire Department of the Navy as well as being the designated civilian official for the detainee review process, England said: "I'll take the time necessary to do it. ...It will work."

England has been to Guantanamo, which is a naval facility, once before when it was first being established to receive detainees, but he will visit again in the next couple of weeks in the capacity of his newly created position.

The Defense Department's transcript of England's briefing may be viewed on the Internet at http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2004/tr20040623-0921.html

The DOD announcement naming England as the advocate for the review process may be viewed at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2004/nr20040623-0932.html

England's biography and photograph is posted at http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/people/secnav/england-bio-73.html

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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