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DoD Details Detainee Efforts to Senate Panel

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2005 – DoD officials testified about the ongoing department efforts in regards to detainees before a Senate committee today.

Navy Rear Adm. James McGarrah, director of administrative review of the detention of enemy combatants, and Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, of DoD's Office of Military Commissions, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both men described the processes their offices go through and the reasons for establishing them.

"America is at war," Hemingway said. "It is not a metaphorical war. It is as tangible as the blood and rubble that littered the streets of Manhattan on September 11th, 2001."

With that as a backdrop, Hemingway said the president established the military commissions to try those "noncitizen members of al Qaeda and other persons engaged in specified terrorist activities who were alleged to have committed violations of the laws of war and related offenses."

The United States has never faced an enemy like al Qaeda before. For the first time in its history, the United States faced nonstate terrorists who could cause widespread damage to the United States, both officials noted.

How the United States detains and tries these enemy combatants is an evolving procedure with protections for both the suspects and U.S. security interests.

McGarrah leads the Combatant Status Review Tribunal effort. He works for acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, the designated civilian official for the process.

McGarrah is in charge of the effort to annually assess whether each enemy combatant held at Guantanamo continues to pose a threat to the United States or its allies or whether there were other factors that would support the need for continued detention.

Before coming up with the tribunals, DoD officials consulted with officials from the International Red Cross and ambassadors from countries of detainees held at Guantanamo. "We worked to develop a rigorous and fair review process called the administrative review board," McGarrah said.

"The panel can recommend to England that individual detainees be released, continue to be detained or be transferred, with conditions, to their country of nationality," he said.

"Because of the highly unusual nature of the global war on terror, and because we do not wish to detain any person longer than is necessary, we have taken this unprecedented and historic action to establish this process to allow enemy combatants to be heard while a conflict is ongoing," McGarrah concluded.

However, the process is stalled as DoD explores the implications of three U.S. Court decisions on DoD's procedures handed down last year.

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