Washington, D.C. - Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defended the administration's imprisonment of an undisclosed number of children at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Secretary of Defense argued: "We have every legal right to detain these enemy combatants and will continue to do just that until we are ordered by the president to do otherwise. Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes, all ages."
Because the detainees are minors, the Bush administration has refused to release their identities to the public. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said Monday that even though the detainees are all American citizens, the government can legally hold them indefinitely due to the fact that they have been taken out of the custody of their parents and placed in something known as Temporary Permanent Custody of the Department of Defense, a little known provision of the Patriot Act which allows the Justice Department to declare persons under the age of eighteen, who are implicated in terror plots, to be enemy combatants. "Since these little hellions are unable to vote and basically have no legal rights, as soon as we terminate parental rights and place them into federal custody, they basically belong to the government", Gonzalez said.
News of the detention of children at Gitmo broke two weeks ago when a photograph was leaked to the New York Times. It shows children, perhaps as young as three, being held at the prison camp.
Secretary Gates dismissed critics of the administration's Terror Tyke Detention Program as being "out of touch with reality." The secretary said that the children are being treated humanely. "They don't wear hoods over their heads. They get to watch Barney and Friends, Sesame Street, SpongeBob Squarepants as much as they want", the secretary added. "It is similar to a daycare center. They just don't go home at the end of the day. And their parents don't have to pay for them to be here."
President Bush said Wednesday that he was unaware that children were being held at Guantanamo. But after reviewing the program, Mr. Bush defended the program as "a good idea" and an "impotent faucet of are natural security." The president also said that detention of children in Cuba is "the next logical step" of the No Child Left Behind program. "When I signed the No Child Left Behind bill into law, I was serious about it. We can afford to overlook no child, especially these little terrorists."