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US Says 'No Plans to Close' Guantanamo Bay


Amnesty International is the latest organization to allege detainee abuse at the United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are growing calls within the United States to shut the facility down. But the Bush administration defends the facility and says it has no plans to close it.

The terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay has become a lightning rod for critics of the Bush administration's war on terrorism. Claims of abuse have prompted violent protests throughout the Muslim world.

Last month the human rights organization, Amnesty International, released a stinging criticism of the facility with the group's Secretary General Irene Khan comparing Guantanamo to the former Soviet Union's prison camps. "Guantanamo has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the notion that people can be detained without any recourse to the law."

U.S. President George W. Bush called the Amnesty report, "absurd. "It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of, and the allegations of, people who are held in detention, people who hate America."

New concerns were raised this week. Time Magazine reported on a classified document outlining the interrogation techniques used on a man the U.S. government says was a September 11th hijacker who was unable to carry out his mission.

The documents detail the treatment of Mohammed al-Qahtani, an admitted al-Qaida operative. Time magazine's Adam Zagorin says these methods included sleep deprivation and humiliation. "There's a wide variety of techniques as part of a process of experimentation to see what will work to extract actionable intelligence from this man."

The Pentagon has defended its questioning of Mr. Al-Qahtani saying he has provided "valuable intelligence information."

On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld defended the existence of Guantanamo. "The kind of people held at Guantanamo include terrorist trainers, bombmakers, extremists recruiters and financiers, bodyguards of Osama bin Laden and would-be suicide bombers. They're not common car thieves; they're believed to be determined killers."

But with the steady drumbeat of criticism, several lawmakers of both parties have had enough and think it is time to shut down the Guantanamo Bay facility, sometimes referred to as Gitmo.

Senator Joseph Biden is the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. "But the bottom line is, I think more Americans are in jeopardy as a consequence of the perception that exists worldwide with its existence, than if there were no 'Gitmo'."

Democratic Party Senator Patrick Leahy says the U.S. should be setting an example. "We're the country that tells people that we adhere to the rule of law. We want other countries to adhere to the rule of law and in Guantanamo we are not."

On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney vigorously defended the prison, saying it is essential to the Bush administration's efforts to combat terrorism. "I think that these people are treated far better than they could be expected to be treated by any other government on the face of this earth. From that standpoint I say I think that our policy is the correct one."

Some members of Congress do not agree. They will hold hearings on conditions at Guantanamo this week.

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