San Diego Union Tribune

June 29, 2005

Hunter sets hearing on detainees

By Otto Kreisher

WASHINGTON – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter has reversed his previous opposition and has scheduled a hearing today on the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A few weeks ago, the El Cajon Republican dismissed Democratic committee members' requests for a hearing, calling it unnecessary. He offered the menus of meals served to detainees and the careful provisions for their religious practices as evidence that they are well treated.

The Senate Armed Services Committee leadership has indicated it would hold a hearing into the persistent claims that detainees were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques and that the Muslim sacred book, the Koran, was abused. Other congressional panels have conducted inquiries into the conditions at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo. They have heard repeated Defense Department assurances that the detainees were being treated humanely and that the few known instances of abuse of detainees or the Koran were corrected.

Asked about Hunter's reversal, a spokesman said the chairman decided while leading a House delegation's visit to Guantanamo on Saturday that the committee should hear about how well the facility was being run.

Visiting members said the facility had been improved substantially since it first opened.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, said the facilities they saw were nothing like the crude arrangements she had seen before and were equal to a U.S. prison.

Tauscher, a member of the Armed Services Committee who had pressed for a hearing, agreed with Hunter that some of the 500-plus detainees were dangerous and had to be held, but expressed concern over the lack of a judicial process to determine their fate.

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