The Pentagon is seeking help from the US State Department and other agencies to transfer about half of the 540 detainees at the US base in Cuba, according to the newspaper on Friday.

Pentagon officials said it had long been a US aim to turn over prisoners who no longer have intelligence value or pose a threat to their home government for release or continued detention.

But they said there was no estimate of how many could be transferred.

 

"It's always been the interest of the United States government, and the Defence Department as part of that, not to be the world's jailor," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.


No goal
 

He added: "There is no goal. There is no target number. Each of these individuals have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis."

 

"It's always been the interest of the United States government, and the Defence Department as part of that, not to be the world's jailor"

Bryan Whitman,
Pentagon spokesman

The paper said US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a memo dated 5 February, called for greater support from the State Department and other government agencies for the plans to reduce the population at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, starting with efforts to work out a significant transfer of prisoners to Afghanistan.

 

Senior military officials have said that more than half the detainees at Guantanamo are no longer of intelligence value, although some may still pose a threat.

 

The Times said officials from the State Department and CIA had resisted some transfers to foreign governments in the past, however, out of concern that they could harm US security or subject a prisoner to mistreatment.


Shouldering responsibility
 

The State Department is responsible for negotiating agreements with foreign governments receiving the prisoners, officials said.

 

The Guantanamo Bay base has been used to house prisoners captured mainly in Afghanistan and Pakistan because it was thought to be beyond US laws guaranteeing basic rights to detainees.

 

But recent court rulings allowing prisoners to challenge their detention have put added pressure on the Pentagon to transfer prisoners deemed to no longer pose a threat.

 

"We've also talked about our desire to move those from Guantanamo in those circumstances when we can work with our allies and other countries out there to take and shoulder some of that responsibility," Whitman said.

 

"These things are difficult. They take time," he said.

Detained in home countries

So far, 211 prisoners have been transferred from Guantanamo to other countries. Of those, 146 have been released, while 65 others remain in detention in their home countries.

 

Some prisoners remain in
custody in their home countries

The Pentagon alleges about a dozen who have been released have returned to the fight.

 

Another 20 prisoners are awaiting release after a status review board determined that they were not "enemy combatants".

 

A separate administrative review board has begun evaluating prisoners case by case to determine whether they continue to pose a threat, are of intelligence value and are eligible for prosecution.

 

"That process I would envision will start to kick people out too," said Whitman.