Cheney Backs Gitmo Amid Criticism

In this photo reviewd by the U.S. military, a guard looks out from a tower at Camp Delta 1in the long-term detention facility at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Wed., April 13, 2005. Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday, June 12, 2005 there are no plans for now to shutter the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay where terrorism suspects are held. (AP Photo/Richard Ross)
Suspected terrorists will continue to be held in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Vice President Dick Cheney says, amid concerns by some fellow Republicans that the situation may be counterproductive.

"The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantanamo are bad people," Cheney said in an interview airing Monday night on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" program.

"I mean, these are terrorists for the most part. These are people that were captured in the battlefield of Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the al Qaeda network."

Human rights activists and some lawmakers — mostly Democrats — want the prison closed, highlighting allegations of torture and abuse of detainees. President Bush has said his administration is "exploring all alternatives" for detaining the 540 prisoners, some of whom have been held for more than three years without charge.

"We've already screened the detainees there and released a number, sent them back to their home countries," Cheney said in the interview, taped Friday. "But what's left is hard core."

"When detainees were first taken from Afghanistan to Guantanamo four years ago, the Administration thought it was taking prisoners to a place outside U.S. jurisdiction," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk who has been to the base twice. "The Supreme Court has since said that detainees have rights under both U.S. law and international law but little has been done to respond to critics who say it is legal limbo or a 'no-man's-land' where U.S. authorities can do whatever they want."

Some Republican lawmakers say problems over the prison itself and allegations of mistreatment there should cause the administration to consider closing the facility.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, cited Guantanamo on Sunday as one reason the U.S. is "losing the image war around the world."

"We've got a lot of people running around the world who want to do great damage to this country and other nations," he told CNN's "Late Edition." "We do need some kind of a facility to hold these people. But this can't be indefinite. This can't be a situation where we hold them forever and ever and ever until they die of old age. "

Sen. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican, said Friday that Guantanamo has "become an icon for bad stories and at some point you wonder the cost-benefit ratio."

"How much do you get out of having that facility there? Is it serving all the purposes you thought it would serve when initially you began it, or can this be done some other way a little better?"

These comments follow reports of very aggressive interrogation techniques on prisoners there and confirmation that the Muslim holy book was mishandled a number of times by American guards, reports CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante.