is Secretary of Defense for the United States.
Is Not Guantanamo
Remarks prior to Tuesday's DoD news briefing...
H. Rumsfeld] 6/15/05
In the years leading up to September 11th, the
United States dealt with terrorism primarily as a law enforcement
issue. Terrorists who had already killed Americans were investigated,
they were arrested, and then they were put on trial, and then
they were punished. When terrorists committed an act of war against
our country on September 11th, killing 3,000 people, the United
States and our allies responded by using military force against
al Qaeda and its Taliban sponsors in Afghanistan. In this new
era, it became clear that prosecuting terrorists after they strike
was an inadequate approach, particularly given the lethal threats
posed by violent extremists.
During the operations since September 11th, the military has
apprehended thousands of enemy combatants, and several hundred
were determined to be particularly dangerous and valuable from
an intelligence perspective. There was no existing set of procedures
or facilities to detain these enemies in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
After extensive discussions with his senior advisers, the president
decided that they were not entitled for formal prisoner of war
status under the Geneva Conventions and that they were certainly
not criminal defendants in the traditional law enforcement sense.
Indeed, faced with this new situation, the president ordered
that detained combatants be treated humanely under the laws of
war. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was established
for the simple reason that the United States needed a safe and
secure location to detain and interrogate enemy combatants. It
was the best option available.
The Department of Defense, working through the National Security
Council interagency process, established procedures that would
provide appropriate legal process to these detainees, procedures
that go beyond what is required even under the Geneva Conventions.
These included combatant status review tribunals to confirm that,
in fact, each individual is, in fact, an unlawful enemy combatant.
Every detainee currently at Guantanamo has received such a hearing.
As a result, some 38 individuals were released.
Military commissions, trials with full representation by defense
counsel for those suspected of committing war crimes. The commissions
have been temporarily suspended pending further review by the
U.S. federal court system.
And third, administrative review boards that annually assess
the remaining potential threat and intelligence value represented
by each detainee. These boards are designed to reexamine detainees
regularly in order to identify detainees who can be released.
Our goal as a country is to detain as few people as is possible
and is safe. We prefer to return them to their countries of origin
if the country is capable and willing to manage them in an appropriate
way. In some countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, we have begun a
process of trying to help them develop the proper facilities
and the proper trained forces to manage these detainees. Other
countries have not satisfied the U.S. government, as yet, that
they will treat their nationals humanely, were they to be transferred
to their countries. Still others don't have laws that permit
them to detain individuals of this sort, and they're in the process
of passing such laws.
One of these detained terrorists at Guantanamo is a man, called
Mohamed al-Kahtani, believed to be the 20th hijacker on September
11th. He has direct ties to al Qaeda's top leadership including
Osama bin Laden. While at Guantanamo, Kahtani and other detainees
have provided valuable information, including insights into al
Qaeda planning for September 11th, including recruiting and logistics;
the identities and detailed information of 20 of Osama bin Laden's
bodyguards; information leading to the capture of Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, the architect of the September 11th attacks; and information
allowing foreign police to detain 22 suspected terrorists plotting
attacks earlier this year.
Detainees are sent to Guantanamo only after a proper screening
process that identifies these prisoners who pose a threat to
the United States or who have intelligence value. 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. They are not common car
thieves. They are believed to be determined killers.
Arguably, no detention facility in the history of warfare has
been more transparent or received more scrutiny than Guantanamo.
Last year the department declassified highly sensitive memorandum
on interrogation techniques. Unfortunately, they were documents
that are useful to terrorist operatives, and we posted them on
the Internet specifically to set the record straight about U.S.
policies and practices.
There have been nearly 400 separate media visits to Guantanamo
Bay by more than 1,000 journalists. Additionally, some 180 congressional
representatives have visited the facility.
We provide continuous access to the International Committee
of the Red Cross, whose representatives meet privately with the
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.
As the president has said, we are always looking for ways to
improve our procedures. And of course we have been looking for
better suggestions as to how to manage detainees who pose a lethal
threat to the civilized world, and we have already implemented
dozens of reforms. CRO
by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, to Council on
Foreign Relations New York City.