Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons
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Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer 13 minutes
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
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
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
Administration officials also have said that allowing
coerced testimony in some cases may be necessary,
while McCain said the committee bill would ban it
"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
"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
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.