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Rumsfeld defends prisoner treatment, says no reason to close Guantanamo Bay

[JURIST] US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [official website] said in a Pentagon news conference [RP video] Tuesday that the US government had gone to great length and enormous expense to ensure that terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay were well-treated and that there was no reason to consider closing the military detention center despite increasing pressure from some politicians and human rights groups [JURIST report]. Rumsfeld indicated there is no better alternative to the facility, which he insisted was needed to detain terrorist suspects until the war on terror is over. He added that the US military had learned valuable information from the Gitmo detainees. Bloomberg has more. At the instance of Chairman Arlen Specter the US Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold hearings on US treatment of detainees in Washington on Wednesday [agenda].

8:35 PM ET - Rumsfeld said:

Allegations of abuse at Guantanamo, as at any other U.S. military facility, have been thoroughly investigated. Any wrongdoing is -- wrongdoers are being held accountable. The U.S. military has instituted numerous reforms of the conduct of detainee operations, with a renewed emphasis on standards and training.

The U.S. military has also gone to unprecedented lengths to respect the religious sensibilities of these enemies of civil society, including the issuance of detailed regulations governing the handling of the Koran and arranging schedules for detainees around the five daily calls for prayer required by the Muslim faith. In fact, at Guantanamo, the military spends more per meal for detainees to meet their religious dietary requirements than it spends per rations for U.S. troops.

Since September 11th, the military has released tens of thousands of detainees, including some 200 from Guantanamo. Regrettably, we now know that some of those detainees that were released from Guantanamo have again taken up arms against the United States and our allies, and are again -- were again attempting to kill innocent men, women and children. The U.S. government will continue to transfer others to their countries of origin after negotiating appropriate agreements to ensure their humane and -- humane treatment.

The United States government, let alone the U.S. military, does not want to be in the position of holding suspected terrorists any longer than is absolutely necessary. But as long as there remains a need to keep terrorists from striking again, a facility will continue to be needed. The U.S. taxpayers have invested over $100 million in military construction in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and it is spending something like an average of $90 (million) to $95 million a year to operate that facility to its highest standards.

The real problem is not Guantanamo Bay. The problem is that, to a large extent, we are in unexplored territory with this unconventional and complex struggle against extremism. Traditional doctrines covering criminals and military prisoners do not apply well enough.
The full transcript of the Rumsfeld press conference is now online from DOD.

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