Transcript: Cheney Defends Hard Line Tactics

These are not American citizens. They are not subject, nor do they have the same rights that an American citizen does vis-a-vis the government. But they are well treated. They also have the opportunity, and the process has started now, to be heard before a military commission with judgment, fair and honest judgment made about their guilt or innocence, to be represented by counsel provided through that process.

So, they -- I don't know any other nation in the world that would do what we've done in terms of taking care of people who are avowed enemies, and many of whom still swear up and down that their only objective is to kill more Americans.

KARL: So, when do you think we'll be at a point where Guantanamo could be responsibly shut down?

CHENEY: Well, I think that that would come with the end of the war on terror.

KARL: When's that going to be?

CHENEY: Well, nobody knows. Nobody can specify that. Now, in previous wars, we've always exercised the right to capture the enemy and then hold them till the end of the conflict. That's what we did in World War II with, you know, thousands, hundreds of thousands of German prisoners. The same basic principle ought to apply here in terms of our right to capture the enemy and hold them.

As I say, the other option is to turn them over to somebody else. A lot of them, nobody wants. I mean, there's a great resistance sometimes in the home countries to taking these people back into their own territory.

And it's not a law -- it's not a traditional law enforcement problem. I mean, one of the things that happened on 9/11 was, we went from thinking about a terrorist attack as a law enforcement problem where you would prosecute an individual, to rather being a strategic threat to the United States where we need to use all of our capabilities to be able to defeat the enemy.

And these folks are, in fact, unlawful combatants, adversaries of the United States, members of al Qaeda. And I think that's true for most of them there. As I say, there's a regular, annual review of each of their cases to make certain that we're still justified in holding them. And if not, to send them back to their home country, if they'll have them.

KARL: But basically, it sounds like you're talking about Guantanamo being a -- it sounds like you're saying Guantanamo Bay will be open indefinitely.

CHENEY: Well, a lot of people, including the president, expressed the view that they'd like to close Guantanamo. I think everybody can say we wished there were no necessity for Guantanamo. But you have to be able to answer these other questions before you can do that responsibly. And that includes, what are you going to do with the prisoners held in Guantanamo? And nobody yet has solved that problem.

KARL: What's the danger in doing this too soon, you know, just make this symbolic gesture to shut the place down?

CHENEY: Well, if you release people that shouldn't have been released -- and that's happened in some cases already -- you end up with them back on the battlefield.

And we've had, as I recall now -- and these are rough numbers, I'd want to check them -- but, say, approximately 30 of these folks have been held in Guantanamo, then released, and ended up back on the battlefield again, and we've encountered them a second time around. But they've either been killed or captured in further conflicts with our forces.

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