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Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060906/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer 13 minutes ago
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 6, 2006
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060906/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush

      Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons

      By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer 13 minutes
      ago

      WASHINGTON - President Bush has transferred 14 key
      terrorist leaders from secret CIA custody to the U.S.
      military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be
      prepared for eventual trials, a senior administration
      official said Wednesday.

      The high-value suspected terrorists include Khalid
      Sheik Mohammed, believed to be the No. 3 al-Qaida
      leader before he was captured in Pakistan in 2003;
      Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be Sept. 11, 2001,
      hijacker; and Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a
      link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells
      before he was also captured in Pakistan, in March
      2002.

      Bush revealed the move in a speech from the White
      House, with families of those killed in the 2001
      attacks making up part of the audience. The
      announcement, which the White House touted beforehand,
      comes as Bush has sought with a series of speeches to
      sharpen the focus on national security two months
      before high-stakes congressional elections.

      Speaking at the White House, the president said that
      the country was still under threat from terrorists.

      "They're still trying to strike America and still
      trying to kill our people," Bush said. The U.S. must
      be able to "detain, question and, when appropriate,
      prosecute terrorists captured here in America and on
      the battlefields around the world."

      Bush said such detainees provide essential
      intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks and to stop
      key terror suspects from again taking up arms against
      the United States. "We have a right under laws of war
      and an obligation to the American people to detain
      these people and prevent them from returning to
      battle," Bush said.

      "They are in our custody so that they can't kill our
      people."

      The president successfully emphasized the war on
      terror in his re-election campaign in 2004 and is
      trying to make it a winning issue again for
      Republicans this year.

      The announcement from Bush is the first time the
      administration has acknowledged the existence of CIA
      prisons, which have been a source of friction between
      Washington and some allies in Europe. The
      administration has come under criticism for its
      treatment of terrorism detainees. European Union
      lawmakers said the CIA was conducting clandestine
      flights in Europe to take terror suspects to countries
      where they could face torture.

      Bush also will unveil his proposal for how trials of
      such key suspected terrorists — those transferred to
      Guantanamo and already there — should be conducted,
      which must be approved by Congress. Bush's original
      plan for the type of military trials used in the
      aftermath of World War II was struck down in June by
      the Supreme Court, which said the tribunals would
      violate U.S. and international law.

      Pushing a hard line with legislation he promoting for
      Capitol Hill consideration later Wednesday, Bush was
      insisting on military tribunals in which evidence
      would be withheld from a defendant if necessary to
      protect classified information.

      The official, who had spoken only on grounds of
      anonymity because the president's announcement was
      still pending, said the suspects transferred to
      Guantanamo would be afforded some legal protections
      consistent with the Geneva conventions.

      Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), chairman
      of the Armed Services Committee, and Sens. John McCain
      and Lindsey Graham have drafted a rival proposal. It
      would guarantee certain legal rights to defendants,
      including access to all evidence used against them.

      "I think it's important that we stand by 200 years of
      legal precedents concerning classified information
      because the defendant should have a right to know what
      evidence is being used," said McCain, R-Ariz., who was
      among the Senate leaders briefed ahead of time on
      Bush's plan.

      Administration officials also have said that allowing
      coerced testimony in some cases may be necessary,
      while McCain said the committee bill would ban it
      entirely.

      "We have some differences that we are in discussion
      about," said McCain, who had not seen the White House
      bill in writing. "I believe we can work this out."

      Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is
      expected to side with the administration. He planned
      to introduce Wednesday the White House legislative
      proposal on the floor and refer it to the Armed
      Services Committee for review.

      Frist "believes it is a dangerous idea that terrorists
      and those around them automatically receive classified
      information about the means and methods used in the
      war on terror," said a senior Frist aide.

      Senate Democrats so far are in agreement with Warner
      and McCain, setting up a potential showdown on the
      floor this month just before members leave for midterm
      elections.

      "It's going to get worked out," White House press
      secretary Tony Snow declared. Asked if the White House
      will negotiate with the lawmakers, he replied, "It may
      be that the Hill is willing to negotiate."

      Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon was releasing a new
      Army manual that spells out appropriate conduct on
      issues including prisoner interrogation. The manual
      applies to all the armed services, but not the CIA.

      The United States began using the Guantanamo Bay Naval
      Base in eastern Cuba in January 2002 to hold people
      suspected of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. About
      445 detainees remain there, including 115 considered
      eligible for transfer or release.

      The president has said he eventually wants to close
      Guantanamo as critics and allies around the world have
      urged. But Snow said Bush wasn't announcing any such
      plan now.

      Guantanamo has been a flashpoint for both U.S. and
      international debate over the treatment of detainees
      without trial and the source of allegations of
      torture, denied by U.S. officials. Even U.S. allies
      have criticized the facility and process.

      The camp came under worldwide condemnation after it
      opened more than four years ago, when pictures showed
      prisoners kneeling, shackled and being herded into
      wire cages. It intensified with reports of
      heavy-handed interrogations, hunger strikes and suicides.
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