In recent weeks, news reports about abuses and mistreatment of prisoners at the U.S. military's detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has put the Bush administration on the defensive. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made a case for continued operation of the facility.
Mr. Rumsfeld says no other military detention facility has been as transparent as Guantanamo Bay. According to the defense secretary, there have been nearly 400 separate media visits to Guantanamo as well as some 180 congressional delegations. Additionally, the U.S. military provides continuous access to members of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Mr. Rumsfeld used his opening statement at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday to defend the U.S. military detention facility, where he said detainees are sent only after they are determined to pose a threat to the United States.
"The kind of people held at Guantanamo include terrorist trainers, bomb makers, extremist recruiters and financiers, bodyguards of Osama bin Laden, and would-be suicide bombers," he said. "They are not common car thieves. They are believed to be determined killers."
Mr. Rumsfeld said the U.S. government has spent over $100 million in the detention facility at Guantanamo. In addition, he said procedures have been set up to ensure the detainees are treated in a humane manner.
"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," he said.
Despite the guidelines, abuses have occurred. Earlier this month the Pentagon confirmed five incidents in which it says soldiers or interrogators at Guantanamo mishandled copies of the Koran. This followed a report in late May by the human rights group Amnesty International, that called the detention center at Guantanamo Bay a "gulag." The Bush administration has said the comparison is "absurd" and "reprehensible".
More recently, this week's Time magazine has a cover story that details the harsh interrogation tactics used on Mohamed al-Kahtani, who is being held at Guantanamo, suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plane highjacking in the U.S.
Mr. Rumsfeld defended the interrogation methods used because of the high value of the suspect and the information he provided.
"While at Guantanamo [Mohamed al-] Kahtani and other detainees have provided valuable information, including insights into al-Qaida planning for September 11, including recruiting and logistics, the identities and detailed information of 20 of Osama bin-Laden's bodyguards, information leading to capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of the September 11 attacks, and information allowing foreign police to detain 22 suspected terrorists plotting attacks earlier this year," the defense secretary said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States would continue to detain suspected terrorists at Guantanamo until they are determined to no longer be a threat to the United States and its allies, or until their countries of origin are able to safely and securely house the prisoners.