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American Forces Press Service

Rice Responds to Call for Guantanamo Detention Facility's Closing

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2006 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today discounted a U.N. committee's call for the U.S. to close its terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Rice said a U.N. Committee Against Torture report, released May 19, criticizing U.S. treatment of detainees at Guantanamo was written "by remote control."

"It would have been helpful if the reporter for that report had actually gone to Guantanamo; it's a little difficult to do this by remote control. And we did have a sense that this report, as John Bellinger, who is our legal counsel, said, might have been written before we even were given a real opportunity to respond," Rice told host Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" this morning. "It would have been helpful if there had been full assessment, because people who go to Guantanamo see quite a different picture."

The U.S. doesn't want to be the world's jailer, the secretary said, but somebody has to fill that role as the war on terror continues.

"We will be delighted when we can close down Guantanamo," she said. "Everybody wants to close down Guantanamo. But I would ask this: If we do close down Guantanamo, what becomes of the hundreds of dangerous people who were picked up on battlefields in Afghanistan, who were picked up because of their associations with al Qaeda?

"We do have an obligation," she continued. "The president has an obligation to also keep America -- and, by the way, many of our allies -- safe by making certain that people don't return to the battlefield."

The government, Rice said, works constantly to repatriate detainees who don't pose a threat if released. "Hundreds of people have been released from Guantanamo," she said. "We work almost daily with governments to try to get people returned to their native lands, if their governments will take them and give assurances that they are both not going to be mistreated, and that they're going to be watched and monitored so that they can't commit crimes again." The difference between the war on terror and past conflicts is one that makes a facility like Guantanamo necessary, Rice explained.

"This is a different kind of war. We cannot be in a situation in which we're just turning loose on hapless populations, or unprotected populations, people who have vowed to kill more Americans if they're released," she said. "So I would just ask people to be cognizant of the dilemma here. Absolutely we want to see the day when Guantanamo can close. Absolutely we want to see the day when we don't have to play this role. But somebody had better play the role of making certain that dangerous people don't get released back into the population."

On "Meet the Press" today, Rice said she would not project a timetable for the Guantanamo facility's ultimate closure. Rather, she said, that time would come when it was certain that dangerous people weren't being released.

Rice told host Tim Russert that his question about Guantanamo closing would be different if it had closed and terrorists detained there went back to work.

"We want a result in which we are certain that dangerous people are not going to be let back out onto the streets," she said, "because the day that we are facing them again on the battlefield -- and, by the way, that has happened in a couple of cases that people were released from Guantanamo -- the question is going to be quite a different one from you or from others, which is 'Why didn't you make provisions to keep dangerous criminals, dangerous terrorists, that you knew were terrorists, out of America's neighborhoods or London's neighborhoods or the neighborhoods of Amman Jordan?'"

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