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Bush Rejects Detainee Abuse Commission

The White House on Tuesday rejected the proposed creation of an independent commission to investigate abuses of detainees held at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Pentagon has launched 10 major investigations into allegations of abuse, and that system was working well.

"People are being held to account," he said. "And we think that's the way to go about this."

McClellan said the Defense Department would continue to investigate any new allegations. And he noted that the Pentagon has appointed outsiders to some of its investigations.

The Pentagon considered a probe into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq as independent. The investigation was headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, but its members were appointed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who has been criticized in the scandal.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have increasingly called for an independent commission to look into detainee abuses. On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said a commission is crucial to answering questions about the atmosphere that permitted abuses, troop training and the length of detentions at Guantanamo.

"These questions are important because the safety of our country depends on our reputation and how we are viewed, especially in the Muslim world," she said.

There are about 540 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Some have been there more than three years without being charged with a crime. Most were captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 and were sent to Guantanamo Bay in hope of extracting useful intelligence about the al-Qaida terrorist network.

A recent Pentagon report detailed incidents in which U.S. guards at Guantanamo mishandled prisoners' copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book. Last month, Amnesty International called the detention center for alleged terrorists "the gulag of our time," a charge Rumsfeld dismissed as "reprehensible."

 

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