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Friday, September 15, 2006

President Bush to Congress: Either Make Terrorist Interrogations Legal or They Will Stop

"It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children."

President Bush describes the necessity for congress to pass legislation that allows aggressive interrogation of terrorists to save American lives:
Press Conference of the President
The Rose Garden
White House Transcript:

For example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed described the design of planned attacks of buildings inside the U.S. and how operatives were directed to carry them out. That is valuable information for those of us who have the responsibility to protect the American people. He told us the operatives had been instructed to ensure that the explosives went off at a high -- a point that was high enough to prevent people trapped above from escaping.

He gave us information that helped uncover al Qaeda cells' efforts to obtain biological weapons.

We've also learned information from the CIA program that has helped stop other plots, including attacks on the U.S. Marine base in East Africa, or American consulate in Pakistan, or Britain's Heathrow Airport. This program has been one of the most vital tools in our efforts to protect this country. It's been invaluable to our country, and it's invaluable to our allies.

Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. Making us -- giving us information about terrorist plans we couldn't get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives. In other words, it's vital. That's why I asked Congress to pass legislation so that our professionals can go forward, doing the duty we expect them to do. Unfortunately, the recent Supreme Court decision put the future of this program in question. That's another reason I went to Congress. We need this legislation to save it.

I am asking Congress to pass a clear law with clear guidelines based on the Detainee Treatment Act that was strongly supported by Senator John McCain. There is a debate about the specific provisions in my bill, and we'll work with Congress to continue to try to find common ground. I have one test for this legislation, I'm going to answer one question as this legislation proceeds, and it's this: The intelligence community must be able to tell me that the bill Congress sends to my desk will allow this vital program to continue. That's what I'm going to ask.
...
Q Thank you very much, sir. What do you say to the argument that your proposal is basically seeking support for torture, coerced evidence and secret hearings? And Senator McCain says your plan will put U.S. troops at risk. What do you think about that?

THE PRESIDENT: This debate is occurring because of the Supreme Court's ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the Common Article III of the Geneva Convention. And that Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation. And what I'm proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal. You know, it's -- and so the piece of legislation I sent up there provides our professionals that which is needed to go forward.

The first question that we've got to ask is, do we need the program? I believe we do need the program. And I detailed in a speech in the East Room what the program has yield -- in other words, the kind of information we get when we interrogate people, within the law. You see, sometimes you can pick up information on the battlefield; sometimes you can pick it up through letters; but sometimes you actually have to question the people who know the strategy and plans of the enemy. And in this case, we questioned people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who we believe ordered the attacks on 9/11, or Ramzi Binalshibh, or Abu Zabeda -- cold-blooded killers who were part of planning the attack that killed 3,000 people. And we need to be able to question them, because it helps yield information, the information necessary for us to be able to do our job.

Now, the Court said that you've got to live under Article III of the Geneva Convention, and the standards are so vague that our professionals won't be able to carry forward the program, because they don't want to be tried as war criminals. They don't want to break the law. These are decent, honorable citizens who are on the front line of protecting the American people, and they expect our government to give them clarity about what is right and what is wrong in the law. And that's what we have asked to do.

And we believe a good way to go is to use the amendment that we worked with John McCain on, called the Detainee Treatment Act, as the basis for clarity for people we would ask to question the enemy. In other words, it is a way to bring U.S. law into play. It provides more clarity for our professionals. And that's what these people expect. These are decent citizens who don't want to break the law.

Now, this idea that somehow we've got to live under international treaties, you know -- and that's fine, we do, but oftentimes the United States passes law to clarify obligations under international treaty. And what I'm concerned about is if we don't do that, then it's very conceivable our professionals could be held to account based upon court decisions in other countries. And I don't believe Americans want that. I believe Americans want us to protect the country, to have clear standards for our law enforcement intelligence officers, and give them the tools necessary to protect us within the law.

It's an important debate, Steve. It really is. It's a debate that really is going to define whether or not we can protect ourselves. I will tell you this, I've spent a lot of time on this issue, as you can imagine, and I've talked to professionals, people I count on for advice -- these are people that are going to represent those on the front line of protecting this country. They're not going forward with the program. They're not going -- the professionals will not step up unless there's clarity in the law. So Congress has got a decision to make: Do you want the program to go forward or not?

I strongly recommend that this program go forward in order for us to be able to protect America.
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if our professionals don't have clear standards in the law, the program is not going to go forward. You cannot ask a young intelligence officer to violate the law. And they're not going to. They -- let me finish, please -- they will not violate the law. You can ask this question all you want, but the bottom line is -- and the American people have got to understand this -- that this program won't go forward; if there is vague standards applied, like those in Common Article III from the Geneva Convention, it's just not going to go forward. You can't ask a young professional on the front line of protecting this country to violate law.

Now, I know they said they're not going to prosecute them. Think about that: Go ahead and violate it, we won't prosecute you. These people aren't going to do that, Dave. Now, we can justify anything you want and bring up this example or that example, I'm just telling you the bottom line, and that's why this debate is important, and it's a vital debate.

Now, perhaps some in Congress don't think the program is important. That's fine. I don't know if they do or don't. I think it's vital, and I have the obligation to make sure that our professionals who I would ask to go conduct interrogations to find out what might be happening or who might be coming to this country, I got to give them the tools they need. And that is clear law.
The "Dave" who kept interupting the President is none other than the obnoxious David Gregory, who works for NBC, but must certainly be getting paid by Howard Dean. After answering his question in detail, The President attempted to move on to allow other reporters to ask their questions. But Gregory must feel like he's the only reporter in the room. He demanded that his viewpoint was too important.

Here's just a snatch of what he said:

"But sir, this is an important point, and I think it depends -- "
"No, but wait a second, I think this is an important point -- "
"Sir, with respect, if other countries interpret the Geneva Conventions as they see fit -- as they see fit -- you're saying that you'd be okay with that? "
"This will not endanger U.S. troops, in your -- "
"This will not endanger U.S. troops -- "


That's FIVE additional questions that he attempted to ask. President Bush gave some additional responses but everytime he tried to move to the next reporter Gregory would interupt again. Even Sam Donaldson, who was legendary for shouting questions at Ronald Reagan wouldn't stoop to such unprofessional tactics.

Chicken Hawk Express found the video of this exchange at Newsbusters.org and yours truly posted it on You Tube:

And now, a political question:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I'd also like to ask an election-related question. The Republican Leader in the House this week said that Democrats -- he wonders if they are more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people. Do you agree with him, sir? And do you think that's the right tone to set for this upcoming campaign, or do you think he owes somebody an apology?

THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn't have exactly put it that way. But I do believe there's a difference of attitude. I mean, take the Patriot Act, for example -- an interesting debate that took place, not once, but twice, and the second time around there was a lot of concern about whether or not the Patriot Act was necessary to protect the country. There's no doubt in my mind we needed to make sure the Patriot Act was renewed to tear down walls that exist so that intelligence people could serve -- could share information with criminal people. It wasn't the case, Mark, before 9/11.

In other words, if somebody had some intelligence that they thought was necessary to protect the people, they couldn't share that with somebody who's job it was to rout people out of society to prevent them from attacking. It made no sense. And so there was a healthy debate, and we finally got the Patriot Act extended after it was passed right after 9/11. To me it was an indication of just a difference of approach.
Just as we did in the last two posts at Mike's America, President Bush reminds voters that we have a choice this fall between two different approaches to keep Americans safe and fight the war on terror. And the approach offered by President Bush and the Republicans (well most of them) has saved countless American lives and prevented further attacks in this country.

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