The United States should begin phasing out its detention center at Guantanamo Bay, where terrorist suspects are being held, freshman U.S. Sen. Jim Webb told a group of University of Virginia politics students Monday.Senator Jim Webb interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week, May 17th:
Webb said he agreed early in the War on Terror that such a facility was needed. "But there comes a point where people need to be dealt with through the legal system," Webb said. "I think that time has come."
About 385 men are imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Base in southeast Cuba on suspicion of links to Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Some have been held for more than five years.
After speaking to the students in professor Larry J. Sabato's class on American politics, Webb told reporters that the detainees should either be declared prisoners of war or charged in the American judicial system if the U.S. continues to hold them captive.
"We can't just continue to hold people in limbo without charges for this period of time and still call ourselves Americans," Webb said.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to some of the other issues, because President Obama this week . . . shifted on the issue of military tribunals, even though he had been for them in the past, he heavily criticized the Bush tribunals, now he is bringing them back with some reforms. . .I'll take door number 2.
Now you were also against the commissions during your campaign. Do you support what the president is doing here?
WEBB: I wasn't against commissions per se. . . If I said charged in the American judicial system, I would mean under the traditions of the rules of evidence and these sorts of things. But my view has always been that we need to move these people forward.
We need to find those people who should be held accountable and hold them accountable. And people who have been held inappropriately should be released.
But I don't believe that the situation with people in Guantanamo, as opposed to others who have conducted activities in the United States are the same. I think that the people who have been held in Guantanamo are being charged essentially for acts of international terror, for acts of war, and they don't belong in judicial system, and they don't belong in our jails.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is what the commissions. . .
WEBB: And I don't believe -- I do, I do. But with this caveat, we need commissions like this because there are issues of evidence that you cannot take care of inside the regular American court system, classified information that might have an impact on how we collect intelligence and those sorts of things.
And there are facilities built in Guantanamo right now that are able to do that. . .
We spend hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions in Guantanamo to try these cases. There are cases against international law.
These aren't people who were in the United States, committing a crime in the United States. These are people who were brought to Guantanamo for international terrorism. I do not believe they should be tried in the United States.
See also Charles Krauthammer in Friday's Washington Post, Andy McCarthy on The Corner and blogger Wolf Howling.
(via the Wall Street Journal)