Marine Who Built Gitmo: U.S. Lost "Moral High Ground"

General retires on Tuesday

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    Lehnert also said the 200 or so prisoners still there should not be sent to stateside military bases.

    The Marine who built the Guantanamo Bay prison says the U.S. lost the "moral high ground" with its treatment of prisoners and the facility should be closed.

    Marine Major Gen. Michael Lehnert spoke to reporters Thursday at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.

    "I think we should close it down," Lehnert said as he recounted his experience at the Cuban facility in early 2002. "The information we're getting [from detainees] isn't worth the international beating we are taking."

     Lehnert's remarks came during a wide-ranging discussion on the eve of his retirement from the Marine Corps, reported the North County Times. He spent the last four years overseeing six of its West Coast bases, including Camp Pendleton. It was the first time he expressed his opinions about Guantanamo in detail.

    In 2002, Lehnert was tasked with building prison cells at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba to hold enemy detainees. Lehnert said a separate task force ran the interrogation of prisoners and that he disagreed with other officers about the use of harsh methods.

    "I wanted to run it close to Geneva Convention rules," Lehnert said of Guantanamo Bay during a discussion at the Camp Pendleton office he relinquishes to Major Gen. Anthony Jackson next week. "Our job was to take them out of the fight, and once we had done that, I felt we had a moral responsibility to take care of them."

    Lehnert has spent the last four years as head of Marine Corps Installations West, a command established in 2005 to streamline oversight of development, land-use and community relations work at all its bases on the West Coast except for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.