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Homeland Security

11 February 2004

Powell: Turnover of Spanish Guantanamo Detainee First of Series

Feb. 11: Secretary of State Colin Powell on Television of Spain

The turnover of a Spanish detainee at Guantanamo is "the first of a number of turnovers that will be happening in the near future," Secretary of State Colin Powell told Television of Spain in an interview February 11.

"As we conclude our inquiries and as we finish the interrogation of these individuals, we want to turn them back over to their home countries," he said.

Noting that close to 100 of the Guantanamo detainees have been released in the last year and a half, Powell said that, while "there are many more who will be released ... there are a number of them who we cannot release because of the danger they pose, not only to the United States but to the civilized world."

"We understand that there has been criticism directed our way but I can assure you that we have handled this in accordance with international law and with our principal interest, protecting not only the United States against further terrorist attacks but protecting the world against further terrorist attacks from these individuals," the secretary of state said.

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
February 11, 2004

INTERVIEW
SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL ON TELEVISION OF SPAIN
WITH LORENZO MILÁ

February 11, 2004
Washington, D.C.

(10:50 a.m. EST)

MR. MILÀ: Okay, so Mr. Secretary, let's have -- can we have a statement of what is going on with that Spanish detainee?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as a result of many conversations we've had with the Spanish Government and good cooperation with the Spanish Government, we have reached a point where we are going to be returning Mr. Ahmed back to the control of the Spanish Government. And we expect him to be back in Spain in the very near future and I think Foreign Minister Palacio and your Minister of Interior will also be discussing this matter.

It was important for us to protect ourselves by detaining this individual, finding out what he knew about potential terrorist activities and what his involvement might have been. And I know that the Spanish Government is also anxious to interrogate him and to take additional actions that might be appropriate under Spanish law.

I think this is another clear case of where Spain and the United States cooperate to deal with a problem of mutual concern to us.

MR. MILÀ: Probably they will be in other countries asking for the same question.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.

MR. MILÀ: Is that related to the good relation you have with our Government?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think in this case of Spain, it's related to the good relations we have with your country. But we have good relations with many countries that are involved in this. And the turnover of the Spanish detainee is the first of a number of turnovers that will be happening in the near future. As we conclude our inquiries and as we finish the interrogation of these individuals, we want to turn them back over to their home countries. And you will see more of this happening in the near future. I'm glad that Spain is the first in this new series of releases.

A number of detainees have been released in the last year and a half or so, I think close to a hundred, and there are many more who will be released. But there are a number of them who we cannot release because of the danger they pose, not only to the United States but to the civilized world. And so we will continue to interrogate them and continue to make sure that they are not a danger to anyone. But at the same time, they will be treated properly in accordance with the highest standards of international law.

MR. MILÀ: Mr. Secretary, probably is important for you that you have the guarantee of Spanish Government to take this Spanish detainee and involved him in a legal process.

SECRETARY POWELL: This was an important part of it, but it's typical of the kind of responsible attitude and responsible action that Spain takes with matters such as this. But it was an essential part of the agreement, yes.

MR. MILÀ: And finally, let me ask you, many people thinks that the situation of that legal limbo in Guantanamo is harming the international image of U.S. justice. Do you think that that could become a loss of guarantees when some U.S. civilian or soldier is trialed and judged in another country?

SECRETARY POWELL: We know it is an issue and that is why we are now moving quickly to resolve as many cases as we can. That is why we want to transfer individuals back, why we're anxious to transfer the Spanish detainee back, and we believe we are operating fully in accordance with international law. These are people who, in some cases they are very dangerous, and nobody, if they knew the records of these individuals, would want to see them back out on the street. But there are a number of them that we have now concluded our inquiry, concluded our investigation, and we want to send them back to their countries for whatever action their countries wish to take or just to release them.

We understand that there has been criticism directed our way but I can assure you that we have handled this in accordance with international law and with our principal interest, protecting not only the United States against further terrorist attacks but protecting the world against further terrorist attacks from these individuals.

MR. MILÀ: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: You're quite welcome.

MR. MILÀ: It was very kind of you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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