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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

High-Value Detainees Moved to Gitmo; Bush Proposes Detainee Legislation

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2006 – President Bush today announced the transfer of 14 high-value terrorist detainees from CIA custody to confinement at the Defense Department’s detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that he asked Congress to authorize military commissions to try them.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and 11 other accused terrorists previously held by the CIA will be held in Cuba and await trial, Bush told a White House audience that included some family members of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Mohammed is believed to be the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush said. He added that Abu Zubaydah smuggled al Qaeda leaders out of Afghanistan at the start of the U.S. military action there in late 2001and that bin al-Shibh helped Mohammed plan the 9/11 attacks.

While in CIA custody Zubaydah provided information that led to the capture of Mohammed and bin al-Shibh, Bush said.

Other information Zubaydah provided was used to help stop a planned terrorist attack inside the United States, Bush said. Until then, he said, the U.S. had no previous information that that attack was afoot.

Others within the group of terrorists formerly held by the CIA who are now at Guantanamo are believed to be responsible for the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 and the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Bush said.

Bush also spoke of his proposed bill sent to Congress today that outlines how those detainees would be brought to justice. “I’m sending Congress legislation to specifically authorize the creation of military commissions to try terrorists for war crimes,” Bush said.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that military commissions could be used to try accused terrorists, but, the Court also stipulated that Congress must authorize those commissions, Bush said.

He said the contents of his bill reflect “the reality that we are a nation at war and that it is essential for us to use all reliable evidence to bring these people to justice.”

When Congress acts to authorize the military commissions, then, “the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September the 11th, 2001, can face justice,” Bush said.

Bush also said he asked Congress today to protect U.S. servicemembers who guard or question prisoners from possible improper prosecution under currently ill-defined rules. Geneva Convention provisions under Common Article 3 that describe proper and improper conduct with prisoners “are vague and undefined, and each could be interpreted in different ways by an American or foreign judges,” Bush said.

As it currently stands, some military and intelligence personnel involved in capturing and questioning terrorists could be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act, when all they’d done was to perform their jobs properly and professionally, Bush said.

“This is unacceptable. Our military and intelligence personnel go face-to-face with the world’s most dangerous men every day,” Bush said.

He added that America owes thanks to its men and women in uniform for saving lives and keeping the nation safe. “And, we owe them clear rules so they can continue to do their jobs and protect our people,” the president said.

Bush said he’d ask Congress to:

  • List specific recognizable offenses that would be considered war crimes, “so our personnel can know clearly what is prohibited in the handling of terrorist enemies”;
  • Spell out how the standards of the Detainee Treatment Act apply to U.S. military personnel; and
  • Make it clear that captured terrorists cannot use the Geneva Conventions as a way to sue U.S. military members in the court system.

“The men and women who protect us should not have to fear lawsuits filed by terrorists because they’re doing their jobs,” Bush said.

Bush said the United States is engaged in a global struggle and that the entire civilized world has a stake in its outcome. He said he would continue to work with international partners to make the world safer. “I've spoken with leaders of foreign governments and worked with them to address their concerns about Guantanamo and our detention policies,” he said. “I'll continue to work with the international community to construct a common foundation to defend our nations and protect our freedoms.

“Free nations have faced new enemies and adjusted to new threats before, and we have prevailed,” Bush said.

Above all, Bush added, the war on terror is a struggle for freedom and liberty. “We're fighting for our way of life and our ability to live in freedom,” he said. “We're fighting for the cause of humanity against those who seek to impose the darkness of tyranny and terror upon the entire world. And we're fighting for a peaceful future for our children and our grandchildren.”

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