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Prolonged Detention Is Blamed on Process

May 05, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday that prisoners at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay in Cuba must be questioned by several agencies before they can be released, and he blamed this "very slow" process for their continued detention.

Rumsfeld was responding to a letter from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who urged the Pentagon to move more quickly in determining which prisoners can be released.

Powell's April 14 letter questioned the continued detention of about 660 prisoners from 42 countries who were captured during the war against Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Rumsfeld responded that he too would like to see the process move more quickly.

But, Rumsfeld said, the prisoners' cases are being reviewed by agencies including the FBI, the Justice Department, the State Department, the Defense Department, the CIA and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Some are interested in prosecuting the detainees for crimes they may have committed, while others are interested in gathering intelligence information to prevent attacks.

"So it's a complicated process. It is very slow," Rumsfeld said.

He said Powell, as America's chief diplomat, was making the case on behalf of foreign governments that want to see the prisoners released.

"Colin's job is to represent those countries into this interagency process and see if there isn't some way we can speed that up," Rumsfeld said. "I would like to see it move faster."

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