WASHINGTON (AFP)- The US government has no plans to close its prison at Guantanamo Bay, Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview airing Monday, as controversy about the "war on terror" detention camp flared anew over the latest revelation of detainee treatment.
"At present, there”s no plan to close Gitmo. The president says we review all of our options on a continuous basis," Cheney told Fox News, using a slang term for the site.
"The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantanamo are bad people. I mean, these are terrorists for the most part. These are people that were captured in the battlefield of Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the Al-Qaeda network," Cheney said.
"We”ve already screened the detainees there and released a number, sent them back to their home countries. But what”s left is hard core," he added.
The prison at a US base on the island of Cuba holding some 540 terror suspects from 40 countries has been at the center of a political storm after a Newsweek magazine report — later retracted — that military interrogators at the camp flushed a Koran in a toilet to rattle Muslim inmates.
That report and others sparked angry protests in the Muslim world and condemnation from human rights groups. On May 25, Amnesty International called Guantanamo the "gulag of our times."
Sunday, Time Magazine published secret US interrogation logs describing how a top Saudi terror suspect was forcibly injected with fluids, grilled near military dogs and straddled by a female soldier, a contact particularly offensive to a Muslim.
Mohammed al-Qahtani was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001 and transported to Guantanamo, where he was interrogated from early November 2002 to early January 2003.
US authorities discovered he had been deported from Florida in August 2001 and believe he had sought entry to America to participate in the September 11, 2001 attacks, Time said.
Interrogators poured water over Qahtani, shaved his beard and head and forced him to stand for the US national anthem. He was also forced to strip nude and bark like a dog. Pictures of scantily clad women were hung around his neck.
His condition deteriorated so badly at one point that he was examined by doctors. The logs also recount him saying he wanted to commit suicide.
In a statement released later Sunday, the Pentagon disputed none of this — and essentially confirmed the authenticity of what it called "the compromised classified interrogation log."
It said the interrogators used "approved and monitored interrogation approaches" and that the end of preventing new attacks justified the means.
"Qahtanis interrogation during this period was guided by a very detailed plan and conducted by trained professionals motivated by a desire to gain actionable intelligence, to include information that might prevent additional attacks on America," the statement said.
The revelations left some US lawmakers aghast.
"If, in fact, we are treating prisoners this way, it”s not only wrong, but dangerous, and very dumb, and very short-sighted," fumed Senator Chuck Hagel, on CNN”s "Late Edition" show.
"I just think it”s a terrible mistake," Senator Dianne Feinstein echoed.
President George W. Bush said Wednesday he was ready to examine alternatives to Guantanamo after former president and Nobel peace laureate Jimmy Carter joined other voices calling for its closure.
The Washington Post on Sunday called for a bipartisan commission to study "the proper way to hold enemy fighters in a shadowy and unconventional global war."
"The country needs to forge a consensus on how it can effectively hold and question enemy combatants without bringing shame to its democratic system," an editorial in the daily said.