Suggesting that the Guantanamo Bay prison for suspected terrorists will operate for years, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday that such a detention center will be needed until the war on terror is over.
"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," Rumsfeld said, "but as long as there remains a need to keep terrorists from striking again, a facility will continue to be needed."
At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld offered a defense of U.S. handling of the approximately 520 detainees at facility, saying its operations have been more open to scrutiny than any military detention facility in history.
He said valuable information has been extracted from the detainees, most of whom are threats to U.S. security.
Rumsfeld described the prisoners as including terrorist trainers, bombmakers, extremist recruiters and financiers, bodyguards for Osama bin Laden and would-be suicide bombers, publishes the USA Today.
According to the Boston Globe, to bolster his case, the defense secretary disclosed that interrogations of a key Al Qaeda suspect, Mohamed al-Kahtani, led to the capture of &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/hotspots/2003/03/11/44221.html ' target=_blank>Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the arrest of 22 other Al Qaeda suspects.
Rumsfeld also provided for the first time the cost of operating the prison camp: about $95 million a year. He said $100 million had been spent to build the detention facilities at the base, which holds about 520 ''enemy combatants." In the Bush administration's fiercest defense of the facility, Rumsfeld said, ''Arguably, no detention facility in the history of warfare has been more transparent or received more scrutiny than Guantanamo."
''There have been nearly 400 separate media visits to &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/mailbox/ 22/101/399/14969_Guantanamo.html ' target=_blank>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 detainees."
The Ilyushin 20 (Il-20) military electronic reconnaissance aircraft of the Russian Air Force with 14 servicemen on board that went off radar screens off the coast of Syria was shot down by Syrian air defense systems over the Mediterranean Sea