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Homeland Security

03 March 2006

There Is No Torture at Guantanamo Bay, Rumsfeld Says

U.N. report on detainees not based on first-hand information, he says

By Alexandra Abboud
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that a draft U.N. report on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba that alleges torture of detainees contains no firsthand accounts of the detainees’ conditions.

Prior to capture, prisoners are “taught to allege that they have been tortured,” Rumsfeld  said. “We know that torture is not occurring there.” 

Those who conducted the 18-month investigation reached their conclusions by interviewing former detainees, their families and lawyers, according to the Defense Department, but the investigators did not travel to the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. (See related article.)

In a March 2 radio interview, Rumsfeld said hundreds of American members of Congress and journalists have had access to the detention center since it opened in 2002 to hold prisoners captured in the global war on terrorism.  “The International Committee of the Red Cross was in residence there for a period of years,” he added.

“We see nothing, absolutely nothing from all of those various people who visit Guantanamo that even begins to represent the kind of information that these two or three rapporteurs who have never visited the place put out,” the secretary said.

In a February 28 digital videoconference with the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, Alan Liotta, principal director for detainee affairs at the Defense Department, said there are many misconceptions about the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, but, in reality, the detention center “is extremely transparent.”

Detainees are not held incommunicado as often is reported in the media, and more than 14,000 pieces of mail have been exchanged between detainees and their families.  Liotta also said that the ability of the detainees to communicate with the outside world is evidenced by the fact that family members have arranged for attorneys to represent detainees -- something that could not have been done without direct communication.

Liotta, who previously worked to oversee the Department of Defense’s effort to account for U.S. military personnel missing in previous conflicts including those in Korea and Vietnam, said critics who accuse the United States of holding the detainees indefinitely do not recognize the nature of conflict.

The purpose of a detention center such as Guantanamo Bay is to ensure that those captured during the ongoing war against terrorism will not return to the battlefield while that war still is being prosecuted, he said.

“In World War II and Korea, when American personnel and allied personnel from other countries were captured, they had no idea how long they would be in prison because no one knew when the war was going to end,” he said.  “We don’t send people back in the middle of a war -- you wait until the end of the war.”

Even though the United States is not required to do so, he said more than 250 detainees already have been sent to their countries of origin after the U.S. government received assurances from those nations that the detainees would not return to fight.

For additional information on U.S. policy, see Detainee Issues.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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