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Homeland Security

13 February 2004

Rumsfeld: Detainees' Handling Based on Individual Assessment

Status of Guantanamo detainees explained and differentiated

Detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay were sent there because they were believed to pose a threat to the United States, and many of them have provided valuable information about terrorist structures, plans and tactics, says Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Speaking in Miami on February 13, Rumsfeld said "the United States is working to release those enemy combatants that ... can be judged to be no longer a threat or who no longer possess intelligence that could help us prevent future acts of terrorism.

"For those who continue to be a threat but are not guilty of war crimes," the defense secretary said, "the U.S. government would prefer to transfer them to their native countries for detention or for prosecution ... [and] for those detainees who pose a continued threat and who do need to be detained, the U.S. government is instituting a process for an annual review that would ensure that the detainee has an opportunity to provide information to a panel and that the judgments about continued detention will be made on the basis of the most current information possible."

The secretary said that U.S. officials "will make determinations based upon the best information that they can establish." Some detainees will be tried before military commissions, some will be transferred back to their home countries and others -- determined to pose no further threat -- will be released, he said.

Rumsfeld added that "in our society, the idea of detaining people without lawyers seems unusual. Detaining people without trials seems unusual. After all, our country stands for freedom and it stands for the protection of rights. The natural inclination of most Americans, and indeed, of people in many other countries, is to think in terms of criminal law and punishment rather than the law of war."

But in the case of war, he noted, a country "has as its purpose first to keep the enemy off the battlefield so that they can't kill more innocent people."

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



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