"Run right": Hatch on Gitmo

Published June 25, 2004 8:47PM (EDT)

On Monday, we learned that detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba weren't as valuable as the Bush administration has maintained. Yet Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch still defends their legal limbo and hiding the details of their incarceration from the tax-paying public. The Salt Lake Tribune reports today: After returning from a trip to Cuba to witness the questioning of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Sen. Orrin Hatch said Democrats' unrelenting demands on the Bush administration to disclose more interrogation memos threaten U.S. soldiers."

"'I do not think we have to be transparent about everything around here,' the Utah Republican told the Senate on Wednesday night as he helped defeat a Democratic bill to subpoena the Department of Justice and White House in the Abu Ghraib prison torture investigation. 'Transparency hurts our young men and women, too. It subjects them to all kinds of ridiculous problems.'

"'Why is transparency important? Because it makes better law,' said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. 'Time and time again throughout the over 200-year history of this republic, when things are done in secret, it leads to trouble.'

"The continuing wrangle over interrogation policy documents has prompted Democrats, led by Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, to charge that while Hatch heads the committee responsible for overseeing the Department of Justice, he has emerged as its chief Senate apologist."

Case in point? "Hatch said he visited the Guantanamo prison camp a 'few weeks ago' and found well-fed inmates playing chess and checkers, exercising outdoors, a 'Quran in every cell as far as I could see' and arrows painted on the cell floors showing the direction of Mecca for the Islamic detainees to face when saying their prayers.

"He also witnessed two interrogations that he said were not staged for his benefit and they were "run right.' Although the suspected terrorists were 'very uncooperative,' Hatch said the interrogators used effective techniques that were 'not even close to torture to extract 'information that has saved our boys' and girls' lives.'" Given what we know now about the exaggerated value of and intelligence offered by the detainees at Gitmo, Hatch's statement makes one wonder if he is being naive or disingenuous.

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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