WASHINGTON – Congress and the Bush administration should work together to allow the U.S. to permanently imprison some of the more dangerous Guantanamo Bay detainees elsewhere so the facility can be closed, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.
Gates said the challenge is figuring out what to do with hard-core detainees who have "made very clear they will come back and attack this country."
He said it may require a new law to "address the concerns about some of these people who really need to be incarcerated forever, but that doesn't get them involved in a judicial system where there is the potential of them being released," Gates told the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee.
Gates comments came as the Pentagon released the transcript from a Guantanamo hearing involving a Saudi linked to the Sept. 11 attacks. He said he got money transfers from two hijackers inside the United States hours before the planes struck the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, who was based in the United Arab Emirates on Sept. 11, 2001, denied that he was a member of the Al Qaeda terrorist network and that he sent money to the hijackers.
Lawmakers said Thursday the Guantanamo facility hurts U.S. credibility with its allies. They asked that Gates give more thought to how it could be closed and detainees moved to a military prison.
"I hope that we can work to find some way to correct this problem, because as you say, it is a stain on our reputation and we can't afford it," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis.
Of the 385 detainees at Guantanamo, fewer than 100 woulhijackers in the United Arab Emirates before Sept. 11, but he did not say when or provide details. Asked about the wire transfers of money from two of the hijackers, he said he did not know why he was sent the money, totaling $17,860, on Sept. 8 and 9.
At his hearing, al-Hawsawi acknowledged receiving money transfers and said, "I put it in my bank account in the United Arab Emirates. Only, I did not do anything else with it."
He spoke through a translator. The transcript covered the unclassified portion of the hearing; a classified session was held subsequently, for which no transcript has been released. The Pentagon is not permitting news organizations to attend the unclassified hearings for any of the 14 "high value" detainees at Guantanamo.