WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush on Wednesday left open the possibility that the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be shut down
following mounting criticism from former President Carter and others.
"We're exploring all alternatives as to how best to do the main objective, which is to protect America," Bush said when asked in an interview with
Fox News Channel's Neil Cavuto if he would close the detention center.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, said he did not know of anyone in the administration who was considering closing Guantanamo. He
defended the military's operation of the camp.
The military provides "a stable and secure and safe environment," he told reporters traveling with him in Norway. "Information gained from
detainees there has saved the lives of people from our country and from other countries."
The Pentagon disclosed last week that U.S. guards or interrogators at Guantanamo kicked, stepped on and splashed urine on the Quran. That followed an
earlier report in Newsweek, later retracted, that U.S. investigators had confirmed that a guard had deliberately flushed a prisoner's Quran in a
toilet. The White House blamed that report for violent protests in Muslim nations.
The prison holds about 540 detainees. Some have been there more than three years without being charged with any crime. Most were captured on the
battlefields of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 and were sent to Guantanamo Bay in hope of extracting useful intelligence about the al-Qaida terrorist
Carter told a human rights conference Tuesday that closing the Guantanamo prison would demonstrate the U.S. commitment to human rights at a time when
the U.S. reputation has suffered globally because of reports of prisoner abuses at Guantanamo as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Amnesty International also recently called for Guantanamo's closure, saying the facility is the "the gulag of our time" - a characterization Bush
dismissed again Wednesday.
"It's just absurd to equate Gitmo and Guantanamo with a Soviet gulag," he said. "Just not even close."
Bush said the Guantanamo Bay detainees are being treated in accordance with international standards and that any allegations of mistreatment are fully
investigated. He defended the policy of holding enemy combatants.
"It's in our nation's interest that we learn a lot about those people that are still in detention, because we're still trying to find out how to
better protect our country," he said. "What we don't want to do is let somebody out that comes back and harms us."
Said spokesman Scott McClellan: "They are dangerous individuals. They are enemy combatants for a reason - because they seek to do harm to the
i wonder where the prisoners goin to go now they lost their only shelter.