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Mission in Cuba critical and noble

The work being performed by the Joint Task Force at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay is essential to our efforts to fighting and winning the global war on terrorism.

Having recently returned from my third visit to Camp Delta, I can attest to this firsthand and I am pleased with the professional work being performed by Gen. Jay Hood, the commander of the Joint Task Force, and our military men and women stationed there.

The mission at Camp Delta is a difficult but important one: Keep the meanest and nastiest terrorists off the streets so that they cannot further kill and harm Americans. Also, those stationed at Camp Delta collect information from those with known ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist networks.

Through interrogations, we are able to gather information about terrorists' financial networks and their operational structures, which plan, order and execute atrocities such as those carried out in Madrid last year and this summer in London.

It is important to note that the primary purpose of holding detainees at Camp Delta is to keep known belligerents off the battlefield and learn what they know about terrorist operations. Some of the detainees will ultimately be tried for war crimes, most likely by military commissions. However, that is a secondary objective. In holding these enemy combatants until the end of hostilities, the United States is keeping with decades of precedents from other wars in which the United States held enemy combatants to keep them from returning to the battlefield to fight against us. Many military officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have said that several previously released detainees have shown up on the battlefield.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences I noticed on this recent trip was that the overall operations at Guantanamo Bay have come a long way since the first prisoners arrived in January 2002, when I first visited there. First of all, the images shown by the news media on a daily basis are outdated and from an earlier facility. The media frequently shows pictures of prisoners wearing orange jumpsuits in an area surrounded by cyclone fencing, as if the pictures were taken yesterday. That particular facility, which was known as Camp X-Ray, was closed in April 2002 and is no longer in use. In fact, it's rapidly growing weeds.

The newer facility, known as Camp Delta, is a much more modern military detention facility. It includes an outdoor area where detainees can exercise and different levels of security to reward those detainees who choose to cooperate while in custody.

Despite what's reported in the news media, the prisoners are being held under decent circumstances by highly professional and well trained soldiers, sailors and Marines. Detainees receive meals customized to their specific cultures three times a day, standard living materials, and toiletries. Overall, their accommodations are good, and they are being provided with access to high quality dental and health care - all of which I witnessed firsthand.

Not only did I witness acceptable accommodations, the interrogation methods used to gather and collect valuable information about Al-Qaida and other terrorist networks around the world were humane and conducted by highly professional individuals.

So the next time you see a news report about the ongoing operations at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, remember this: The work being performed there is absolutely critical in helping us fight and win the war against terrorism. And the information being gathered from the detainees helps us better understand terrorist cells throughout the world and ultimately reduces the possibility of further terrorists attacks.