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GOP lawmakers urge Gitmo debate

Knight Ridder

WASHINGTON – Republican lawmakers joined Democrats Sunday in urging new debate over the policies and fate of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for terrorist suspects, the same day Time magazine revealed details of an interrogation of a captive there who was forced to urinate on himself and bark like a dog.

“We need to look at this issue thoroughly, both in open and closed session,” said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Penn., chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

On CNN, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., urged congressional intervention, saying the Bush administration has provided incorrect data about what goes on at the prison. Hagel said he didn’t know whether Guantanamo should be closed.

“This can’t be indefinite. This can’t be a situation where we hold them forever and ever and ever until they die of old age. What are our plans here?” Hagel said. The debate over what to do about the Guantanamo prison, where 520 terrorist suspects are held, intensified in the past week after Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., argued the Bush administration should shut down the base in Cuba because allegations of abuse there, true or not, have put Americans in jeopardy worldwide.

Former President Jimmy Carter later urged that the camp be closed.

On Friday Sen. Mel Martinez, of Florida, who served in President Bush’s first Cabinet, became the first high-profile Republican to say the administration should consider closing the facility.

On Sunday, a Bush administration spokesman said the White House is always looking for alternatives on what to do about the detainees.

The topic dominated Sunday news programs after Time magazine published excerpts from a military interrogation log of Detainee 063 – Saudi Mohammed al Kahtani – who the Sept. 11 Commission said last year may have been the missing 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Time said the log, which spans 84 pages and covers 50 days of interrogations starting in November 2002, shows interrogators refused to let Kahtani go to the bathroom, leaving him strapped to a chair with an intravenous drip to urinate on himself. They also taught him to “bark,” “stay” and “come” like a dog, and forced him to stand nude, ostensibly to break his will to resist his American interrogators, Time said.

The Pentagon confirmed the log was authentic and on Sunday defended the interrogation as giving the United States a “clear picture” of the captive’s links to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Congress has not held public hearings on the prison. Rarely have they expressed concern, with the exception of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a POW during the Vietnam war. McCain wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressing concern over the prisoners’ state of legal limbo after a visit to the camp in December 2003.

Graham and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., joined McCain on the tour and in the letter to Rumsfeld.

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