The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that the Guantanamo Bay prison camp should not be closed because some inmates were too dangerous to be released "under any conditions."
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, on a two-day visit to Malaysia, was responding to a demand by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) that the prison camp be shut down because it had become "the greatest propaganda tool" for Islamic terrorists.
A Newsweek magazine report last month, which stated that interrogators at Guantanamo had flushed a Koran down the toilet, triggered anti-U.S. demonstrations in several Muslim countries that left 16 people dead. Newsweek later retracted the report.
However, the Pentagon last week detailed five incidents in which U.S. guards desecrated the Muslim holy book. Officials did not find any case of the Koran being flushed in a toilet.
Myers said a decision on whether to close the camp was up to the U.S. government. But he suggested there were few alternatives for dealing with combatants who were not regular soldiers and had "no moral boundaries."
There are "some that are very, very dangerous. You wouldn't want to release them under any conditions," he said. "Certainly the hard core of them have to be held."
Those suspects should move through the court system, he said.
There are about 540 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, most of them captured in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Some detainees have been there for more than three years without being charged.
Myers denied there was systematic desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and he accused the press of bias against the U.S. military.
The press should be focusing on the "savage attacks" by al Qaeda and Taliban fighters and not on "a couple of incidents where an overzealous guard or interrogator abused the Koran," Myers said.
Myers said that 248 detainees had been released from Guantanamo and that some were again trying to kill Americans.
"You have a big problem when it comes to how to handle non-state actors that are very, very violent," he said, adding that many of the inmates still might have knowledge that could contribute to stopping further attacks.
Myers said the Newsweek story and the press in general had tarnished the U.S. reputation and made it more difficult to tell the world how much care the military takes to respect religions.
"The press in general seems to relish always emphasizing the negative or in the case of one magazine using an anonymous source to pass bad information," Myers said.