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Rumsfeld Admits Secret Detention of Iraqi Terror Suspect - 2004-06-17

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admits the U.S. military held a prisoner captured in Iraq for months in secret without notifying the Red Cross. More from VOA Correspondent Alex Belida at the Pentagon on the case of the man dubbed "the ghost detainee."

Mr. Rumsfeld says the prisoner, a suspected senior member of the militant Iraqi Ansar al-Islam group, was hidden away at the request of CIA Director George Tenet.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld defended the move, indicating it was taken to allow uninterrupted interrogation of the prisoner. He denies the decision was taken so the prisoner could be mistreated.

"He wasn't lost in the system," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "They've known where he was and that he was there in Iraq for this period of time. There is no question at all about whether he has received humane treatment."

Still, a top Pentagon lawyer admits the prisoner should have been registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross sooner, as required by international law. The lawyer says the Pentagon is examining the case.

Another top defense official says the detainee will now be given a prisoner registration number and access to Red Cross representatives. This official tells reporters if it is deemed appropriate the prisoner will also be jailed with other detainees in Iraq.

In the meantime, Mr. Rumsfeld is castigating the news media for its reporting on detainee abuse cases in Iraq.

He says most of the reporting is not emphasizing that only a handful of soldiers were involved in prisoner mistreatment.

"That is not the implication that's out there. The implication that's out there is that the United States government is engaging in torture as a matter of policy and that's not true," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld says the detainee who was held in secret was never held at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, where a handful of guards abused prisoners. Some of the abuse was captured in photographs, which have triggered worldwide condemnation.