Monday, June 06, 2005

Biden Urges U.S. to Take Steps to Close Prison at Guantánamo

The New York Times

Biden Urges U.S. to Take Steps to Close Prison at Guantánamo

WASHINGTON, June 5 (AP) - A leading Senate Democrat said Sunday that the United States needed to move toward shutting down the military detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

"This has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world," said the senator, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, on the ABC News program "This Week." "And it is unnecessary to be in that position."

A Pentagon report released Friday cited cases in which American guards at Guantánamo Bay mishandled the Koran, and last month, Amnesty International called the detention center for terrorism suspects "the gulag of our time," a charge Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld dismissed as "reprehensible."

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is planning hearings this month on the treatment of detainees at the camp.

Mr. Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proposed that an independent commission take a look at Guantánamo Bay and make recommendations. "But the end result is, I think we should end up shutting it down, moving those prisoners," he said. "Those that we have reason to keep, keep. And those we don't, let go."

He added, "I think more Americans are in jeopardy as a consequence of the perception that exists worldwide with its existence than if there were no Gitmo."

Guantánamo Bay has about 540 detainees. Some have been there more than three years without being charged with a crime. Most were captured on battlefields in Afghanistan and were sent to Guantánamo Bay in hope of extracting useful intelligence about Al Qaeda.