- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The Pentagon will keep the great majority of detainees at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, indefinitely, rather then send them back to their native country, administration officials said.
Pentagon civilians and military officers "have come to a grudging acceptance" that it is too risky to send such dangerous people back to nations that could eventually release them, a senior administration official said.
The officials said the military has been debating for months whether to keep the prisoners.
About 70 percent of 598 Taliban and al Qaeda detainees come from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen countries in a region for which U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., has responsibility.
Officials said Central Command opposed releasing detainees because it feared they would eventually be set free by the Afghan government and resume their practice of attacking American troops.
The detainees at the base at Guantanamo are considered the most hardened of thousands of fighters captured during the war in Afghanistan.
"They have no compunction about killing people," said one official opposed to sending them to other countries.
The debate began in the Pentagon like so many other policy questions: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent out a memo asking why not send them home. Officials quote him as saying, "I don't want to be the world's jailer."
In the end, the discussion boiled down to two questions: How could the United States certify that the other countries would continue to hold them, and would the Pentagon and CIA continue to have access for intelligence collection?
One official said the administration could never get assurances from other countries that these two principles would be met. In fact, Saudi Arabia has a track record of keeping terrorist suspects off-limits to any U.S. interrogators, including those who killed 19 American servicemen in 1996 when they bombed Khobar Towers, the military housing complex near Dhahran.
Yesterday, Pentagon officials said a "small number" of Pakistani detainees will be returned to Pakistan as the result of a thorough review process.
"It's true that that process is working, and that there are some people likely to come out the other end of the chute," Mr. Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon new conference.
He said one criterion for keeping a detainee is "are they people who ought to be kept off the street simply because they might be inclined to go back and again engage in activities that would be opposed to the Afghan government or to the United States?"
Officials say the great majority of detainees fit that description and will be held indefinitely.
In fact, the Pentagon continues to expand the Guantanamo prison, named Camp Delta. There are now 612 units, with another 204 being constructed, to house suspected terrorists from 43 countries.
Since the United States began detaining terrorists at Guantanamo, only two detainees have been released: An Afghan nicknamed "Wild Bill" was repatriated to Afghanistan after doctors determined he was mentally ill. Yaser Esam Hamdi was sent to a Navy brig in Norfolk after authorities found out he may be a U.S. citizen.
"Gitmo," as the base is nicknamed, is more than a military prison. It is a collection center where U.S. interrogators repeatedly question al Qaeda members to glean intelligence about previous, and potential, terrorist attacks.
Two task forces run the operations. Task Force 160 is made up of military police who guard the detainees and run the facility. Task Force 170, a mix of military and CIA intelligence officers, conduct interrogations. Other countries, most notably Jordan, have helped the task force question prisoners.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide