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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Rumsfeld Discusses Guantanamo Bay Detainee Issues

By Petty Officer 3rd Class John R. Guardiano, USN
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2005 Though a "legitimate national debate" can be had over the status of military detainees being at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld insisted today that the detainees are being treated humanely.

"Do you treat terrorists differently than you do people in the criminal justice system in the United States? ... That (issue) deserves debate and discussion," Rumsfeld told Tim Russert on the NBC News program "Meet the Press."

The secretary said he agrees with President Bush that the war on terror differs from a normal war, and that the U.S. criminal justice system would be largely ineffective against terrorists.

Getting a terrorist off the battlefield is an important consideration, he explained. "You want to get information from him so that you know how you can stop other attacks. ... The criminal justice system that we use for a car thief or a bank robber or a murderer in the United States wouldn't work for terrorists," Rumsfeld said.

In fact, hundreds of detainees from Guantanamo have been released already, he noted, and 12 of them have turned up back on the battlefield, trying to kill innocent men, women and children.

"These are suicide bombers. These are murderers. This is the 20th hijacker from 9/11 down there," Rumsfeld told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

"These are people who are out to kill people," the secretary said. The president decided to detain these terrorists at military detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay to keep them away from the battlefield and to get information from them to prevent future attacks, Rumsfeld said. This policy "is debatable," he acknowledged, "and people are arguing it, discussing it. And it's being contested in courts, and that's fine."

But despite the fact that they're terrorists, the secretary emphasized, the detainees have been treated humanely. "The president insisted that all prisoners, detainees, be treated humanely," he explained. "I have issued instructions from the very beginning that all prisoners be treated humanely."

In fact, Guantanamo detainees are being fed better and at greater cost than American troops because of their dietary requirements, Rumsfeld said.

The detention facility has emerged as a source of political debate because of allegations of torture by Amnesty International and other groups. The secretary vigorously disputed these allegations.

"The idea that there is any policy of abuse, (any) policy of torture, is false -- flat false," he declared. "Those are allegations we have investigated."

Rumsfeld said that more than 300 allegations of abuse at Guantanamo have resulted in 50 convictions for not obeying established rules. "Every (allegation) has been investigated, and (in) the ones where anything wrong has occurred, people have been punished," he said.

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