Colin Powell: Close GuantÃ¡namo prison camps
By LIBBY QUAID
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday he favors immediately closing the GuantÃ¡namo Bay military prison and moving its detainees to U.S. facilities.
The prison, which now holds about 385 war-on-terror captives, has tarnished the world's perception of the United States, Powell said.
''If it was up to me, I would close GuantÃ¡namo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I'd close it,'' he said.
''And I would not let any of those people go,'' he said. ``I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system. The concern was, well then they'll have access to lawyers, then they'll have access to writs of habeas corpus. So what? Let them. Isn't that what our system is all about?''
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said Congress and the Bush administration should work together to allow imprisonment of some of the more dangerous detainees elsewhere so the military camp at the remote U.S. Navy base in Cuba can be closed.
The Defense Department estimates it would take about three years to conduct 60 to 80 military trials, if the administration authorizes that many.
Some Democrats in Congress have sought to close the camp, which sprawls across a bluff on the Navy base overlooking the Caribbean. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other lawmakers have proposed shuttering the camp and shifting the commission trials to the United States.
Powell, who was secretary of state in President Bush's first term, said the U.S. should do away with the military commission system in favor of procedures already established in federal law or the manual for courts-martial.
''I would also do it because every morning, I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using GuantÃ¡namo to hide their own misdeeds,'' Powell said. ``And so essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like GuantÃ¡namo open and creating things like the military commission.
''We don't need it, and it's causing us far more damage than any good we get for it,'' he said.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he believes the prison should remain open.
''It's more symbolic than it is a substantive issue, because people perceive of mistreatment when, in fact, there are extraordinary means being taken to make sure these detainees are being given, really, every consideration,'' said Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor.
''But I'll tell you, if we let somebody out and it turns out that they come and fly an airliner into one of our skyscrapers, we're going to be asking, how come we didn't stop them? We had them detained,'' Huckabee said.
''I can tell you, most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like GuantÃ¡namo and less like the state prisons that people are in in the United States,'' he said.
Powell spoke on Meet the Press on NBC. Huckabee was on Late Edition on CNN.