US Republican Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said on Sunday some members of the Bush administration wanted to close Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay to end a high-profile debate over allegations of abuse there.
The military jail has been criticised as a “modern gulag” by Amnesty International, and it has become a hated symbol for many Muslims.
“I think they are divided. I think some members of the White House have come to the conclusion that the legend is different than the fact,” Hunter, a California Republican, told Fox News on Sunday.
“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.
After calls to close the camp from former US president Jimmy Carter and others, President George Bush said last week he was exploring all the alternatives.
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, however, said he knew of no one in the administration who was thinking of closing the Camp Delta prison.
A White House spokesman, asked about Hunter’s comments, said: “We should never limit our options.”
Vice-President Dick Cheney told said there was no plan to close Camp Delta, but he cited Bush as saying options were under review on a continuous basis.
“The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantanamo are bad people,” he said.
Time magazine on Sunday disclosed new details of methods at the camp, citing an interrogation log of al-Qaida suspect Mohammad al-Kahtani.
Techniques included inflicting a “sissy slap” with an inflated latex glove, forcing Kahtani to “bark to elevate his social status up to that of a dog,” and rejecting a request that he be allowed to pray.
A chorus of opposition to the US
Interrogators also played music by pop singer Christina Aguilera to keep him from dozing off, Time said.
Al-Kahtani, a Saudi national, is suspected of having been an intended fifth member of the team that hijacked United Airlines flight 93 during the 11 September 2001 attacks, the Pentagon said in a statement.
He had tried and failed to enter the US in August 2001, and was captured on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2002.
Under questioning, al-Kahtani “provided valuable information helping the US to understand the recruitment of terrorist operatives, logistics and other planning aspects of the 9/11 terrorist attack,” the Pentagon said.
It described the document cited in Time as a “compromised classified interrogation log”.
The log spanned 50 days in the winter of 2002 and 2003, when Rumsfeld approved more coercive interrogation techniques.
Time said water was poured al-Kahtani’s head to keep him awake in midnight sessions. It also said al-Kahtani was questioned in a room decorated with pictures of 11 September victims, was made to urinate in his pants, and forced to wear pictures of scantily clad women around his neck.
He asked to commit suicide at one point, and was hooked up to a heart monitor after he became seriously dehydrated from refusing to drink water and his heartbeat slowed, the magazine said.