Hey, the press corps actually asked some good questions about the Bush assministration’s use of extraordinary rendition in the War on Terra: If “we do not condone torture”, why do we need to send detainees to Uzbekistan?
Q Why has the President approved of and expanded the practice of rendition, of the transfer of individuals from CIA custody to third countries for the purposes of interrogation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Terry, we’re talking about the war on terrorism. And this is a different kind of war. What took place on September 11th changed the world that we live in; it changed the equation, when it came to addressing the threats of the 21st century that we face.
But the President has made it very clear that when it comes to the question of torture, that we do not torture, we do not condone torture, he would never authorize the use of torture. We have laws and treaty obligations that we abide by and adhere to. This is — the United States is a nation of laws. We also have an obligation not to render people to countries if we believe they would be tortured.
And so Judge Gonzales, during his testimony, provided information, talking about how we get assurances from countries to make sure that they abide by our values when it comes to the question of torture. But this is a different kind of war, and it requires us to gather intelligence in order to protect the American people.
Q Well, one of the countries that receives a lot of these individuals is Uzbekistan. What is it that the Uzbekis can do in interrogations that the United States of America can’t do?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, if you’re asking me to talk about specific intelligence matters, you know that I’m not going to do that. But —
Q In general —
MR. McCLELLAN: Our understanding —
Q — what is it that this country, the most advanced in national security matters of any country in the world, cannot accomplish in interrogations —
MR. McCLELLAN: Again —
Q — that the nation of Uzbekistan can?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you’re asking me to get into specific matters, and I’m not going to do that —
Q Generally, in general —
MR. McCLELLAN: — because of the classified nature of our intelligence.
[snip – Squirm, Scottie, Squirm!]
Q But I’m wondering about the rationale for rendition. Why does the President approve of it? Why has he expanded it? And what is it that countries like Uzbekistan, in general, offer the U.S.?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, in terms of the whole issue of renditions, that’s relating to classified intelligence matters, which I’m not going to —
Q You can’t even tell me in general why this practice occurs?
MR. McCLELLAN: Which I’m not going to get into. No, I just told you in general that we have an obligation to the American people to gather intelligence that will help prevent attacks from happening in the first place. The war on terrorism is a different kind of war.
Q I’m trying to better understand this rendition question. If we send somebody overseas to be interrogated to get the intelligence that we need, and they give us their assurances that they don’t torture, or won’t torture, what do we do, then, to verify that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you can direct those questions to the intelligence community. They can provide you with more information on that. But Judge Gonzales — Judge Gonzales actually testified, I think in written testimony, about how we get assurances. And we obviously work to make sure that those assurances are adhered to.
Q And then the other —
MR. McCLELLAN: But I — beyond that, I really can’t get into talking about intelligence matters.
Q And the other piece of it is that we sort of — we’ve got an obligation to collect intelligence to prevent terrorism, that 9/11 changed everything, it’s a different kind of war, and these people are known to be plotting against us. And at the same time, we honor international treaties and we’re a country of laws. Well, how do we juxtapose that? If that is all the case, it almost sounds as though there’s sort of a nod and a wink going on, that all these things are going on — we are a country of laws, we honor our treaties, but then, there’s sort of a “but.” But can we not interrogate these people ourselves?
MR. McCLELLAN: We do talk to people to gather intelligence. The intelligence community is involved — now, some of this, I think, we’re talking about citizens from other countries, so let’s keep that in context.
And I think our men and women in the intelligence community understand what our laws and our obligations are, and they understand what the President has said, which is that we do not torture. And I’ve been told —
Q Why do we have stories every day about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: — I’ve been told that all interrogation techniques that have been authorized are lawful and do not constitute torture. In terms of renditions, again, we’ve made it clear that we have an obligation not to render people to countries if we believe they would torture them. And we do — and we do get assurances on those matters.
Q If we’ve got them, why let them go?
MR. McCLELLAN: Why let who go?
Q If we’ve got someone for interrogation, and we can do it the best in the world —
MR. McCLELLAN: If you’re asking me to comment on specific matters, I’m simply not going to do it. You can direct those questions to the intelligence community, but this is a global war on terrorism where we’re working closely with other countries, and we appreciate the efforts of those other countries to help us prevent attacks from happening.