Today’s gaggle was so contentious that I had to split it into two parts. Here’s Part I:
Lies and Torture
Q I have another question on human rights and the rendition program that Terry asked the President about yesterday. The President said that the United States gets assurances from the countries where these prisoners are transferred back to that they won’t be tortured. But does he really take those assurances seriously, in the light of the testimonial evidence and a wide array of reporting over the past couple of months that, indeed, there were torture — or rather, terror suspects who were, indeed, tortured in our allied countries in the Middle East?
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely, in response to your question.
Q So those people are lying?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made it very clear that we do not condone torture. He’s made it very clear to the government that we do not torture. And the President does not believe we should export torture. We remain a nation at war, in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, and we do have an obligation to gather information from known terrorists that can help us to prevent and disrupt attacks, as well as to capture other terrorists. This war is an ongoing effort, but as we carry out those obligations to protect the American people, we must do so in a way that adheres to our laws and our values. And the President has made that very clear, repeatedly.
Q Is the President aware of some of this testimonial evidence of individuals who were apprehended, who told their stories publicly, about the sort of treatment they have received overseas?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes — you’ve seen the news coverage, I’ve seen the news coverage, as well —
Q Right. I mean, to sit around and say, well, yes, we don’t export torture, I mean, you just close your eyes and there’s nothing happening?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, David, never when it comes to torture.
Q Are these reports wrong, or does he not believe that there’s torture going on in these countries where these prisoners are being rendered back to?
MR. McCLELLAN: When people are rendered to another country, we seek assurances that they won’t be tortured. When we return known terrorists to their countries of origin, or we render people to countries, we want to have assurances that they’re not going to be tortured, because that’s a value that we hold very dearly. And let’s understand, though, that we are talking about — I mean, Terry brought up earlier today, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad. Khalid Shaykh Mohammad is a known terrorist who is responsible for overseeing the attacks of September 11th that led to the killing of 3,000 innocent civilians in America. But I make very clear, again, what our view is.
[Gee, did I miss the great Khalid Shaykh Mohammad trial while I was trying to copy Scott Peterson’s hairstyle? Has Khalid Shaykh Mohammad been indicted, or even charged with a crime yet? What happened to the presumption of innocence?]
Q I know. I know what the view is. I know what Khalid Shaykh Mohammad evidently did. That still doesn’t answer the question. Does the President believe that there is no torture going on in any of these countries that are receiving prisoners that are part of this rendition program? Is he sure of that?
MR. McCLELLAN: David, we comply with our treaties and with our — with our —
Q That’s a non-answer, and you know it.
MR. McCLELLAN: David, will you let me finish my response?
Q Yes. When you get your assurances, does that mean he believes it’s not happening?
MR. McCLELLAN: We believe in adhering to our laws and our treaty obligations. That’s the way the President has always acted.
[Blah-bitty-blah, we don’t torutre, blah-blah, can’t discuss because of National Security, blah.]
Q One on this, one on another subject. Would you acknowledge then, as David just pointed out, there are people who have been in U.S. custody, who were transferred to other countries, who have now come out and said, I was tortured. Did that happen?
MR. McCLELLAN: Director Goss was testifying earlier today; he addressed some of these issues. The Attorney General, Judge Gonzales, has addressed some of these issues. I would leave it exactly where they left it, Terry.
Q But does the White House admit or deny the allegations of these people who were in U.S. custody —
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, Terry, that matter — those questions have been directed to Director Goss, they’ve been directed to Attorney General Gonzales during his testimony, and they’ve responded to it, and they’ve addressed it. And I will leave it where they left it.
Q Scott, on renditions, has the United States ever rendered prisoners to countries other than their country of origin?
MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, I’m not going to get into talking about any specific matters, and that would be getting into talking about specific matters. But I think I addressed that question earlier when I said that we have an obligation not to render people to countries if we believe they’re going to be tortured. All countries that are committed to winning the global war on terrorism have an obligation to work together to defeat the terrorists and to prevent attacks from happening. But Chairman — I mean, Director Goss was testifying earlier today; you might want to look at some of the comments he made. And I’m just not going to get into specific intelligence matters.
Q The President said yesterday, specifically, when we returned prisoners to their country of origin, we do so with assurances they won’t be tortured. Does that mean there’s another category, when we send them to countries other than the country of origin, or that they only go to their countries of origin?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would just repeat what I said. We have an obligation, and we make sure that we get assurances that when people are rendered to other countries that they won’t be tortured.
Q Whatever country, whether it’s their country of origin or not.
MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, you might want to direct further questions to the intelligence community. Again, these are — this is involving national intelligence, and this is involving matters related to the war on terrorism. And this involves classified information that I’m just not going to get into.
Go ahead, I’m sorry.
It’s pretty obvious to everyone, even members of the press corps who aren’t named Helen, that the assministration has been outsourcing torture. Keep digging!