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Guantanamo Prison Chief to Remain, Rumsfeld Says

October 03, 2003|Esther Schrader | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has no plans to fire the head of the prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba and will not subject Arab and Muslim service members to special scrutiny despite the arrests of three Muslim workers at the prison, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday.

Responding to a reporter's question on whether he would consider replacing Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who has overseen operations at the special prison set up for terrorist suspects, Rumsfeld suggested he did not intend to fire Miller.

"The implication that every time something happens in the world you should fire somebody is ... kind of a mindless approach, it seems to me," Rumsfeld said.

Despite the arrests on suspicion of espionage at the facility where about 660 Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects from 42 countries are held, Rumsfeld said that profiling troops who are Muslim or of Arab descent "would not be a useful way to approach it."

"I don't think one has to assume that they [Muslims] have a monopoly on this type of activity," Rumsfeld said. "Plenty of people have done things that are from every conceivable religion in this country and so, too, people in and out of the service."

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the discovery of the alleged espionage activity at the base was not a surprise.

"It should not be a surprise that in a time of war people try to infiltrate this way, and it wasn't," Myers said.

The U.S. military this week sent a team of about a dozen investigators to the base to find any gaps in security after the arrests of a Muslim chaplain and two Arabic-language translators on suspicion of espionage.

The team dispatched by the military's Southern Command, which manages the Pentagon's day-to-day operational affairs at Guantanamo, will assess security procedures at the base, according to military officials.

"What they are doing is reviewing the procedures to determine are there ways that we can do this in a better way," Rumsfeld said. "That's what we always do. We learn from experience and you have lessons learned."

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