Nev. senator tours Guantanamo prison

By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY Associated Press Writer
Posted: 05/15/2009 05:53:01 PM PDT
Updated: 05/15/2009 05:53:01 PM PDT

LAS VEGAS—Nevada Sen. John Ensign said Friday that he sees no need to close the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay until the war on terror ends, but he acknowledged the detention center had damaged the U.S. image abroad. 

"After seeing it today, it is hard to imagine why we would ever think about closing" the facility, Ensign told reporters by telephone after touring the prison with three other senators. 

The Republican said he was impressed by conditions of the prison housing more than 200 military detainees who have not been charged with crimes. He said average Americans would be "outraged because the kind of treatment (detainees) get is certainly not only better than anybody in an American prison, but they get better health care the average American citizen does." 

"Their food is better than the food that they fed us as senators and staff that went down," he said. 

But he said the prison had become "part of the negative image some have of the United States." 

Republicans in the Senate will propose several amendments next week that push back against the Obama administration's plan to close the facility by early next year, Ensign said. 

He said he remains open to proposals for closing the prison, but "it's got to be a really good, effective plan." 

"We're dealing with people who would like to wipe out Americans. These are having Charles Mansons times whatever factor ... these people are so dangerous," Ensign said. 

"Like any military conflict, it is permissible to hold people until the military conflict is over," Ensign said, saying that it would be up to military leaders to decide when that was. "Does anybody think this global war on terror is over? It's not even close ... If these people get out they're coming back to kill Americans and as many Americans as they can kill."

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