The Bush administration is defending its practice of holding terror suspects indefinitely at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison camp.
In a hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Justice Department official Michael Wiggins said the detentions prevent enemy combatants from attacking the United States.
He and other officials said the nation has a legal right to detain the prisoners without charges as long as the U.S.-led war on terror continues.
Only four of the 520 detainees at Guantanamo have been formally charged. Today the committee's chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, challenged Congress to help define the detainees' legal rights.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy says Guantanamo has become an international embarrassment.
Human rights groups accuse the Bush administration of allowing prisoner abuse at the camp. But U.S. officials have rejected calls to close Guantanamo, saying the country has no alternative for housing dangerous detainees.