Transcript: Cheney on Guantanamo Detainees

Following is an excerpt from Fox News Sunday, Jan. 27, 2002.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Speaking of Colin Powell, we now know from newspaper reports, the Washington Times in particular on Saturday, that there is a discussion within the administration about the proper way to treat the prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay.

Secretary Powell apparently has recommended that before they be designated as POWs or not that their cases be dealt with by a tribunal and that they at all times be declared by us to be governed by, and our treatment of them governed by, the Geneva Convention, as best we can understand it.

What about that?

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The actual issue's different than that. We're all in agreement — Colin, me, Don Rumsfeld — that these are not lawful combatants, they're not prisoners of law.

There is a legal issue involved as to whether they should be treated within the confines of the Geneva Convention, which does have a section that deals with unlawful combatants, or whether they should be dealt with outside the Geneva Convention.

There's another school of thought that says the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorist attacks. It was set up to deal with a war between sovereign states. It's got provisions for dealing with civil war. But in a case where you have non-state actors out to kill civilians, then there's a serious question whether or not the Geneva Convention even applies.

The bottom line is that legal issue is being debated between the lawyers. It'll go to the president. He'll make a decision.

The detainees are being treated humanely. But they are not lawful combatants. These are the worst of a very bad lot. They are very dangerous. They are devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if they can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort.

And they need to be detained, treated very cautiously, so that our people are not at risk. And they also probably have information that we need to prosecute the war on terrorism.

So, they're being treated appropriately in Guantanamo Bay, but there is this legal issue that's going to get resolved.

HUME: What is the down side of going along with Secretary Powell's advice on this?

CHENEY: Well, the Justice Department had other advice. Counsel's office of the White House had other advice. It's a dispute among lawyers about statutes, international agreements, international law, how we should treat what is now — you know, this is a new area we've embarked upon. We've not before been in the business of detaining large numbers of terrorists.

And we've got an ongoing war going here. And so their fate, how we deal with them appropriately, how we maintain our commitment to our values as a free and open society, how we extend to them humane treatment but at the same time deal with them the way they need to be dealt with...

TONY SNOW, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: There's no part of the difference with the Geneva Convention says all they have to do is give name, rank, serial number, birth date and what we want is a lot more information than that, so there are certain restrictions of the Geneva Convention.

CHENEY: Sure, that's one issue.

SNOW: Let's switch to the war. It has been reported that American authorities believe that Mullah Omar and Usama bin Laden are somewhere in that Pakistan-Afghanistan border area. Is that correct?

CHENEY: We think so. We don't know for certain, but obviously we received reports. And my guess is, personal view based on what I've seen, that they are both still in the region.

SNOW: So there are signs, even though we're not getting videos and other things, that bin Laden's still alive?

CHENEY: I think he is. Again, we haven't seen him, obviously, in the flesh recently, and he's been very quiet. He hasn't released any videos or made any public pronouncements. But I think, if he were dead, there'd be more indications of it than we've seen.

SNOW: More violence?

CHENEY: No, I think more — there'd be more noise in the system about his demise and about the future of the organization, if, in fact, he were no longer there.

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