Pentagon statement regarding Sami al Hajj

McClatchy NewspapersJuly 27, 2007 

Capt. Jeffrey D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, issued the following statement on Hajj:

— Enemy combatants, such as Sami Al-Hajj, a Sudanese national, were picked up on the battlefield during Operation Enduring Freedom. In his case, it was along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan in December 2001. These enemy combatants were part of Taliban, Al Qaeda, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. This includes any person, like Al-Hajj, who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy armed forces.

— There is no special category of that gives members of media organizations, which includes Sami Al-Hajj, immunity if engaged in suspicious activities against coalition forces. Sami Al-Hajj, like all other members of media organizations, was not targeted by U.S. and coalition forces. Individuals are only taken into custody when believed to be engaged in activities that pose a threat to friendly forces which include terrorist financiers, facilitators, recruiters, bomb makers, etc.

— Multiple reviews of detainee cases have been conducted since each detained enemy fighter was captured, to include for Sami Al Hajj. The reviews took place from initial detention overseas to lengthy procedures at Guantanamo Bay.

— There is a significant amount of evidence, both unclassified and classified, which supports continued detention of Sami Al-Hajj by U.S. forces. This evidence has been carefully weighed at a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) and Administrative Review Board (ARB) held over the past several years at Guantanamo. While Mr. Al-Hajj has been given the opportunity to contest his status as an enemy combatant through the CSRT process and challenge his continued detention through the annual ARB process, he has repeatedly declined to do so. Instead he has declined to answer any questions about his alleged role in supporting terror networks, as evidenced by the transcripts of these hearings which are posted on Defenselink.mil.

— Approx. 360 detainees are held at Guantanamo. Of these, roughly 85 have been approved for departure and will do so pending State Dept. agreements with a variety of partner nations. Since 2002, approx. 420 detainees have departed Guantanamo — released or transferred to the control of over a dozen other governments, including roughly 115 in 2006. While the ICRC has access to detainees, other IGOs, the press and NGOs do not since those captured are not held up to public curiosity in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

— We have no desire to be the world's jailer and do not hold detainees for any longer than necessary. The U.S. military detains enemy combatants to prevent them from continuing to wage war, as well as to gather intelligence to thwart further terrorist assaults. Guantanamo includes some of the world's most egregious terror suspects, and they will face justice. While we have long maintained that we would like to close Guantanamo, there are a number of highly dangerous men who if released, would pose a grave danger to the public.

2007 McClatchy Newspapers

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