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CHICAGO (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Friday the U.S. hunt for Osama bin Laden was still on, denying the pursuit of the al Qaeda leader was less important after the CIA disbanded its bin Laden unit.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks five years ago, Bush famously declared bin Laden was wanted "dead or alive," words he later came to regret after his wife Laura told him to tone it down.
Bush dismissed that notion. "We got a lot of assets looking for Osama bin Laden," he said at a news conference at the Museum of Science and Industry.
"It's a matter of time, unless we stop looking. And we're not going to stop looking so long as I'm the president -- not only for Osama bin Laden, but anybody else who plots and plans attacks against the United States of America," Bush said.
While U.S. forces have captured or killed members of the al Qaeda network, bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri have eluded the manhunt and continue to issue broadcast tapes to show they are still alive.
"If we let up the pressure on him, the world's more dangerous," Bush said of bin Laden. "In the short run, we will bring these people to justice. ... In the long run, the way you defeat this enemy is to spread liberty, and that's what you're seeing unfold."
The Bush administration, which opened the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to hold terrorism suspects, was recently dealt a blow by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled against the military tribunal system set up to try those prisoners.
Bush said the high court ruling means his administration should work with the U.S. Congress to obtain proper authority "when it comes to dealing with illegal combatants who are picked up off a battlefield and put in Guantanamo for the sake of our security."
Bush said the Supreme Court was "silent" on whether or not Guantanamo should have been used for the prisoners. "In other words, they accepted the use of Guantanamo, the decision I made," he said.
Bush also noted that the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war were set up to deal with armies of countries and not terrorists.
"This is different than any president has been through before in terms of how to deal with these kind of people," he said.
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