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Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Secretary of the Navy Gordon England Friday, October 1, 2004 10:59 a.m. EDT

Special Defense Department Briefing

SEC. ENGLAND: Good morning.

Q Good morning.

SEC. ENGLAND: How is everybody this morning? It is nice to be here.

If we haven't met, again, one more time, Gordon England, secretary of the Navy, here for another function. But first let me comment as secretary of the Navy.

In case you missed the battle of the titans last night, just to let you know that the Naval Academy did beat the Air Force Academy last night in that great -- (applause) -- right -- first leg -- first leg of the trophy, Commander in Chief Trophy. So last night was also a big night for the Naval Academy.

But today I'm not here -- except for that announcement, I'm not here as the secretary of the Navy. I'm here as Secretary Rumsfeld's designee for the Guantanamo detainees and for the two processes we have going on at Guantanamo.

Again, a reminder. We have two different processes. One of them is what we call the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, the CSRTs, that we refer to as the tribunals. And this is the tribunal to determine that the detainees are or are not enemy combatants. So this is a review of their status in terms of enemy combatant.

We also have the Administrative Review Boards, and that's the board, given you are an enemy combatant. Then we have the boards annually. Detainees go before the board, and that's to determine if they are retained at Guantanamo or if they're released to their home country with conditions or if they're just released outright.

So we have those two processes. I'll just give you an update. I don't believe there's anything profound, but this is the seventh time we've met just to provide you status of where we are in these two processes.

So as of this morning, we have conducted 115 tribunals. We have 350 cases open, and that includes all stages of the process, from opening the case to the convening authority's review. So we have 350 cases. Of the 115 tribunals we have held -- I know you're always interested -- we have had 71 of the detainees personally appear. So about 60 percent of the cases, the individual has appeared personally before the tribunal.

Also, as you know, the tribunals are open to the press. The press periodically participates; not all the time because this has become quite routine. And we don't see the press too much anymore, but they do still come by. It's open -- every one is open to the press.

Of the 115 tribunal decisions, keep in mind, those decisions go to Admiral McGarrah, who's here today. And the Admiral is a convening authority. And they go to him for review, sufficiency review. He reviews; makes sure that we have met all the criteria in our procedures. And he then either concurs with or sends the cases back for further work. So of the 115, 64 have now been reviewed by Admiral McGarrah, and 63 of those he's concurred with were indeed enemy combatants. One he has concurred with was not an enemy combatant. The last time I was with you, I announced at that time we had one case that was not an enemy combatant. So one not an enemy combatant; 63 are enemy combatants, of the 64 cases reviewed of the 115. So there are still now some in the Admiral's office, obviously, waiting for that review process.

I am pleased to tell you that the rate has gone up appreciably in the last couple of weeks. Last week we conducted 25 hearings or tribunals. This week, as of this morning, we have conducted 21. So we'll have hearings yet today. We'll have hearings tomorrow. So this week will be the high week in terms of the number of detainees whose cases have been heard.

We had a number of problems obviously, among those a number of hurricanes that came near the island. And that's not an excuse; it's just a factor. But I believe we resolved the issues that were slowing us down. Like I say, we've gotten to a pretty high rate last week and this week. So we will have all of the CSRTs or all the tribunals completed by the end of the year. We are well on track to do that.

Now, the Administrative Review Boards -- or Annual Review Boards, the ARBs, those procedures were signed out by me on September 14th. So again, a reminder, you go through the tribunal process, CSRTs. If you are determined to be an enemy combatant, you then go into the next process of the Annual Review Boards, and that's a very similar process. We've had about a dozen cases have now gone to State Department to notify countries. This is the case, you'll recall, on the ARBs, Annual Review Board, that you can bring in information, families can provide information, countries can provide information. So we have started that process, and we expect in about 30 days we'll actually be holding the first tribunal. Sometime in November, we will start the first ARB, because we need to provide about 30 days for people to give us a response.

So very shortly we will have both processes going on at the same time, but only for a short time, because the CSRT should be finished by the end of the year. So for a matter of a month or two, we'll have them both in operation. Then we'll be down just to the annual review boards.

So the process is proceeding well. There are no problems. Again, detainees largely are appearing. About two-thirds of them appear. And we expect this will continue to accelerate in terms of numbers. We're maintaining a pretty high, steady pace now.

But I also will tell you, we have not been rushing this. This has been very orderly. It's been very methodical. It's been very fair. And doing it quick has been the second priority. We're doing this right, and that's why it's been slower than we anticipated, because it's just taken more time to do it right.

That's where we are today. And questions?

Q On a slightly different topic, one of the enemy combatants there, Moazzam Begg, is alleging he was tortured and abused. Can you -- do you know anything about this? He said this in a letter to his lawyer that apparently got out uncensored.

SEC. ENGLAND: Know nothing about it. It'll be investigated. I mean, if that was the allegations, they'll be investigated. Again, you know, ICRC is there. We've had people there. We've had independent assessments. So I don't know of any cases like that, but again, if there's an allegation like that, it'll certainly be investigated.

Yes, sir?

Q Two questions. First, the number of -- you said, in terms of the tribunal, the tribunals conducted and the open cases, they should be about a hundred, 120 short of the total number of detainees at Guantanamo. Is -- are they -- what happens to them?

SEC. ENGLAND: Oh, we just haven't opened those cases yet.

Q (Off mike.)

SEC. ENGLAND: No, we just -- I mean, we'll get to those. We have about 350 open. So as we work through, we open new cases. So they'll all be accounted for.

Q Okay. Second question is -- I think they said in the last week 10 new detainees were transferred to Guantanamo, and that's the first time that's happened in almost a year. Will these be subject to the same procedures; have the same rights as everyone else?

SEC. ENGLAND: Yes, they will. Yes, they will. Identically. They'll just fit at the end of the ones there now. So we'll have those also through the process by the end of the year.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Sir, are all three of the tribunal panels, up and running, or is it still only going through one panel?

SEC. ENGLAND: No, there are three panels up and running. And Admiral, we were thinking about a fourth. Is it three or --

ADM. : We're working on fourth right now.

SEC. ENGLAND: Working on a fourth. So three are up and running, and we're trying to put a fourth in place.

Q And if you say 25 was kind of the high-water mark for a week to date. Before that approximately how many might have been going through in a week, just as a comparison?

SEC. ENGLAND: Well, it varied. Some days, one or two in a day. Again, the hurricane, some days we didn't do any. At times a witness will appear, bring out some data we then need to go back and check. So it's very hard to keep a high rate unless you have a lot in the queue, frankly, so you can substitute new people. It's taken a while to build up the quantity that we can do that, but now we have, I believe, enough of the data compiled, cases ready, that we'll be able to continue at the 25, maybe a little bit more. This week we'll get somewhat more. We're 21 as of this morning. We can go through six, seven a day, potentially. So by the end of the week we could be at 30, perhaps, this week, maybe a little more. It depends on the specific cases. But I expect we'll stay at 25, 30, now for the remainder of the year.

Yes, sir?

Q When you announced last time the finding that one was not actually an enemy combatant for the first time, you said you couldn't provide any details until the State Department had gone and talked to the home country. Can you tell us more now about who that person was, what they were accused of doing, what evidence led to --

SEC. ENGLAND: I can't do that. I can tell you he went back to Pakistan and he returned to his country in September. And I believe that was announced earlier. But he was returned -- what date?

STAFF: (Off mike.)

SEC. ENGLAND: The 18th of September. So he was returned to his country on the 18th of September, was returned to Pakistan.

Q Can you tell us anything more about what was thought to be the evidence against him and what was the conclusion that decided that evidence wasn't enough?

SEC. ENGLAND: No, I can't. I can tell you this. Press, I believe, actually sat in on that case. I'm not sure. But again, a lot of the data is classified, so you can't really discuss all the information in public. For the unclassified portion, that is available and that can be discussed because that's open, obviously. People sit in on that. But not the classified portion of it. So we can provide you the unclassified summary.

Q Sir, was he released by Pakistan or is he being detained in Pakistan now?

SEC. ENGLAND: I don't know.

Okay. One more?

Q Yes. Sixty-three out of 64 were deemed combatants. Is that a very high success rate? At Nuremberg, less than half the Germans were convicted. I know it's not a trial, but that's a pretty high rate.

SEC. ENGLAND: Well, this is only to determine, again, if you're an enemy combatant. And there's already been prior determinations. This is a much more formal process, but there's been a number of determinations in the past, so I would expect that most would indeed be enemy combatants, just because of prior reviews. This is a more formalized review, it's later, there's more data available, so I would expect that you'll get some people to be non-ECs, non-enemy combatants. But remember now, this is strictly an administrative review to determine if the people are indeed classified appropriately, still classified right, in terms of enemy combatants.

Q What's your latest target date for when you -- the tribunal process as opposed to the board --

SEC. ENGLAND: I'm sorry?

Q What's the latest target date for when you expect the Combatant Status Review Tribunal to be completed?

SEC. ENGLAND: We'll be completed before the end of the year. That's our objective, sometime before the end of the year.

Maybe one last question.

Q Yeah. In the case of the individual was found not to be an enemy combatant, do they receive any kind of compensation for their, you know, length of incarceration?

SEC. ENGLAND: No, I don't believe they do.

Okay. Go ahead.

Q Yeah, on a different subject. Today it was reported that the Seventh Fleet has begun patrolling the Sea of Japan near North Korea. Can you confirm that? And is -- was that -- is that part of the initial operating capability of the ballistic missile defense system?

SEC. ENGLAND: We do have our Aegis destroyers deployed, and indeed they do have tracking capability as we committed to do before the end of the year. So we do have our ships deployed, and yes, that is a correct report.

Q How many ships are involved with that as far as the initial naval deployment?

SEC. ENGLAND: I just don't have that detail with me.

Q Can you say which ships?

SEC. ENGLAND: No, I don't know that this morning.

Q Has the --

SEC. ENGLAND: We'll be happy to follow up with you, but I just don't have that today.

Q I'm sorry.


Q Has the initial operating capability been turned on as of today?

SEC. ENGLAND: Again, I can only tell you Navy ships. We are deployed. I mean, I can tell you we do have our ships deployed in that region.

Q Are they transmitting information to Fort Greeley and to California?

SEC. ENGLAND: Again, I can't comment on operational capability, inappropriate to do so. I can confirm our ships are there and we do have our capability operational.

Q Thank you.

SEC. ENGLAND: You bet.

Thanks, everybody. Good to be with you again. Be sure to report on that Navy game. (Laughter.)

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