Guantanamo Bay Poses Political Problem

June 27, 2006 — -- The Supreme Court may rule today whether Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunals are legitimate as the Bush administration grapples with the international and political dilemma the prison poses.

In the case of Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld, Salim Ahmed Hamdan's attorney argues that war crimes tribunals do little to protect the rights of his client. Hamdan, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, is charged with conspiracy to commit terror acts against the United States.

War crimes tribunals are just one of the problems the prison poses. Many critics balk at the interrogation techniques used there.

A new ABC News poll finds that more than 70 percent of Americans oppose imprisoning suspects there indefinitely without charges. Many of the Guantanamo prisoners are suspected terrorists who have not been formally charged with crimes.

Critics say the conditions at the Guantanamo detention center are notoriously harsh. Detainees get one hour of exercise in their 10-by-18-foot pens. Guards check cells every three minutes, partly to prevent suicides. A Muslim call to prayer sounds over the camp five times a day.

Many critics say that interrogations hedge on torture. Inside one interrogation room, officials provide a recliner for detainees to sit in, although some remain shackled to the floor during sessions.

International Outcry

The prison has prompted outcry around the world.

The United Nations, France, England, and many other nations have called for the United States to shut the prison down. Many countries have demanded the return of their nationals.

Despite the international controversy about the prison, Paul Rester, the chief of interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, said he was proud of his work there.

"I think what people forget is when these individuals were brought here, there were four smoking holes in the ground," Rester said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "For myself, torture is a deliberate and sadistic infliction of mental and physical pain on another human being."

Rester insists that although interrogation techniques can be tough, they have never crossed the line to torture.

"None of it reached or exceeded what my moral view of torture is," he said. "Was it comfortable? No. Was it subjectively distasteful? Probably."

"Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran contributed to this report.