WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday that the United States needed to close the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which housed suspects captured in the war on terrorism.
"I think we should end up shutting it down, moving those prisoners," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. "Those that we have reason to keep, keep. And those we don't, let go."
The Delaware senator, also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on ABC's "This Week" that the allegations of mistreatment of inmates at Guantanamo and at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad -- along with last week's Pentagon report of five instances in which Guantanamo guards desecrated the Koran, Islam's holy book -- had "become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world. And it is unnecessary to be in that position."
Biden said the Judiciary Committee was to hold hearings in the next couple of weeks on his proposal to set up an independent commission to examine Guantanamo Bay and other prisons for terrorism suspects.
"But the bottom line," he said, "is I think more Americans are in jeopardy as a consequence of the perception that exists worldwide" than if there were no prison at Guantanamo Bay.
About 520 terrorism suspects are in the facility, part of the U.S. naval base on Cuba. The Pentagon reported in April that 234 detainees had been released or returned to their home countries.
Last month, Amnesty International, the human rights group based in London, called the Guantanamo detention center "the gulag of our time." Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld characterized the charge as reprehensible.
On Sunday, the executive director of Amnesty International's U.S. office said the comparison of Guantanamo to the Soviet gulag was "not an exact or literal analogy."
"People are not being starved in those facilities. They're not being subjected to forced labor. But there are some similarities," William Schulz told "Fox News Sunday."
"The United States is maintaining an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons into which people are being literally disappeared."