Bush to unveil plan for Gitmo trials

Pentagon releases new manual on proper prisoner interrogation techniques.

September 6, 2006 22:23
3 minute read.


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US President George W. Bush pushed Wednesday to resuscitate his plan to subject Guantanamo Bay detainees to special trials, a key policy in his anti-terror strategy that was struck down by the Supreme Court. The White House asked television networks for live coverage of Bush's announcement later Wednesday. The president has said he eventually wants to close the Guantanamo prison, as critics and allies around the world have urged. But White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president was not going to announce any such plan Wednesday. "We want to bring to justice those who are detained there," Snow said. Ever since the high court ruled in June that Bush's plan to try the detainees in military tribunals violated US and international law, the administration has been working on a new strategy for trying some of the hundreds of suspected al-Qaida and Taliban operatives rounded up in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries. "One of the most important tasks is for Congress to recognize that we need the tools necessary to win this war on terror and we'll continue to discuss with Congress ways to make sure that this nation is capable of defending herself," Bush said following a meeting with his Cabinet before announcing his plan. The House and Senate during the August break drafted their own legislative proposals. Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he was asking the GOP leadership to put his bill on the floor by mid-month. Warner's bill is expected to differ from the administration's plan, which likely will take a harder line. Of the differences with lawmakers on the details of how to try the suspects, Snow declared, "It's going to get worked out." 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 forbids intimidation with military dogs, putting hoods over their heads and simulating the sensation of drowning with a procedure called "water boarding," according to one defense official. The manual applies to all the armed services, but not the CIA, which also has come under investigation for mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration has said that all prisoners, whether at Guantanamo or in military or in CIA custody elsewhere, are treated humanely and in a manner "consistent with Geneva Conventions" even though it also has said it did not need to comply with the treaty. The US 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. Bush had said repeatedly he wanted to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, but that it couldn't happen until the most dangerous of the detainees were tried and negotiations to send the other prisoners back to their homes countries - or elsewhere - are completed. The Supreme Court decision put a major crimp in those plans. The president wanted to prosecute them using a type of military trial that was used in the aftermath of World War II. But the Supreme Court, in a 5-3 ruling, said it violated US military law and the Geneva Conventions, which set international standards for dealing with people captured in armed conflicts, including rights that suspects would have in legal proceedings. The court's majority found that Congress had not given Bush the authority to create the special type of military trial he sought, and that Bush did not provide a valid reason for the new system. The justices also said the proposed trials did not provide for minimum legal protections under international law.

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