The White House is split over whether to close a U.S. jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a Republican lawmaker said on Sunday, as a magazine reported a top al Qaeda suspect interrogated there was made to bark like a dog and kept awake with pop music by Christina Aguilera.
Some Bush administration officials want to close the facility to end a debate over allegations of prisoner abuse, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, told “Fox News Sunday.”
The military detention camp for terrorism suspects has been criticized as a modern “gulag” by Amnesty International and it has become a hated symbol for many Muslims.
“I think they’re divided. I think … some members of the White House have come to the conclusion that the legend is different than the fact,” said Hunter, a California Republican.
“And when that’s the case, you go with the legend that somehow Guantanamo has been a place of abuse. And you close it down and you shorten the stories, you shorten the heated debate and you get if off the table and you move on,” he said.
A classified log detailing the interrogation of Mohammad al-Kahtani, suspected to have been an intended Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker, was published by Time magazine on Sunday and gave new details of interrogation methods at the camp.
The Pentagon said Kahtani’s interrogation was conducted by “trained professionals,” and yielded “valuable information” about al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.
After former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and others called for the camp’s closure, President Bush said last week he was “exploring all alternatives.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, however, said he knew of no one in the administration who was thinking of closing Guantanamo.
A White House spokesman, asked about Hunter’s comments, said, “We should never limit our options.”
Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News Channel, in an interview on Friday to be broadcast on Monday, there was “no plan to close” Guantanamo, but options were reviewed “on a continuous basis.”
“The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantanamo are bad people,” Cheney said.
Techniques used against Kahtani included inflicting a “sissy slap” with an inflated latex glove, forcing him to “bark to elevate his social status up to that of a dog,” and rejecting his request to pray, Time said, citing the log.
Interrogators also played Aguilera music to keep him from dozing off, Time said.
Kahtani, a Saudi citizen, is suspected to have been an intended fifth member of the team that hijacked United Airlines flight 93 on Sept. 11, the Pentagon said in a statement. He was denied U.S. entry in August 2001, and was captured on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2002.
The Pentagon described the document in Time as a “compromised classified interrogation log,” and said it had notified appropriate congressional committees.
Kahtani gave interrogators information on bin Laden’s health and methods of evading capture, and on al Qaeda’s infiltration routes, the Pentagon said. He also gave information on convicted “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and suspected “dirty bomb” plotter Jose Padilla, and about 30 of bin Laden’s bodyguards held at Guantanamo, it said.
The log spanned 50 days in the winter of 2002 and 2003.
Time said water was poured on Kahtani’s head to keep him awake in midnight sessions. He also was questioned in a room decorated with pictures of Sept. 11 victims, was made to urinate in his pants, and forced to wear pictures of scantily clad women around his neck.
He once asked to commit suicide, and was connected to a heart monitor after he became seriously dehydrated from refusing to drink water and his heartbeat slowed, the magazine said.