WASHINGTON: CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Wednesday that if Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri are caught, they would likely be sent to the US prison in Guantanamo.
Asked at a Senate hearing about how the United States would handle the possible capture of the al Qaeda chiefs, Panetta said the two would be probably be taken to the military base at Bagram in Afghanistan and then sent on to the jail at Guantanamo Bay.
“The process would obviously involve, especially with the two targets you just described, we would probably move them quickly into a military jurisdiction at Bagram for questioning and then eventually move them, probably to Guantanamo,” Panetta told lawmakers.
But the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, suggested that their capture would spark a debate among government agencies about how to handle the al Qaeda figures.
“If we were to capture either one of those two luminaries, if I can use that term, I think that would probably be a matter of some inter-agency discussions, you know, what their ultimate disposition would be, and whether they would be tried or not,” Clapper said.
The fate of terror suspects captured by the United States has been the subject of fierce debate in Congress, with many Republicans opposed to closing Guantanamo or trying detainees in civilian criminal courts.
President Barack Obama has vowed to close the controversial military prison at the US naval base in Guantanamo but has faced stiff opposition in Congress.
US Attorney General Eric Holder has said he did not anticipate Bin Laden would be captured alive.
US intelligence agencies have been trying to find Bin Laden and Zawahiri since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and believe the two are somewhere in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan.
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