This exchange from today’s appearance with the EU leaders is so – well, tortured that it deserves a post all its own.
Q Mr. President, many in Europe are worrying that with the fight against terrorism the commitment of the United States to human rights is not as big as it used to be — that is not only to do with Guantanamo, but also with the secret prisons where the CIA holds terror suspects. My question is, what will happen to these people who are held in these secret prisons by the CIA? Will they ever see a judge? Or is your thinking that with some terror suspects, the rule of law should not apply or does not have to have applied.
PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I appreciate that question, and I understand we — those of us who espouse freedom have an obligation, and those who espouse human rights have an obligation to live that to those — live up to those words. And I believe we are, in Guantanamo. I mean, after all, there’s 24 hour inspections by the International Red Cross. You’re welcome to go down yourself — maybe you have — and taking a look at the conditions. I urge members of our press corps to go down to Guantanamo and see how they’re treated and to see — and to see — and to look at the facts. That’s all I ask people to do. There have been, I think, about 800 or so that have been detained there. These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren’t wearing uniforms, they weren’t state sponsored, but they were there to kill.
And so the fundamental question facing our government was, what do you do with these people? And so we said that they don’t apply under the Geneva Convention, but they’ll be treated in accord with the Geneva Convention.
And so I would urge you to go down and take a look at Guantanamo. About 200 or so have been released back to their countries. There needs to be a way forward on the other 500 that are there. We’re now waiting for a federal court to decide whether or not they can be tried in a military court, where they’ll have rights, of course, or in the civilian courts. We’re just waiting for our judicial process to move — to move the process along.
Make no mistake, however, that many of those folks being detained — in humane conditions, I might add — are dangerous people. Some have been released to their previous countries, and they got out and they went on to the battlefield again. And I have an obligation, as do all of us who are holding office, to protect our people. That’s a solemn obligation we all have. And I believe we’re meeting that obligation in a humane way.
As well, as we’ve got some in custody — Khalid Shaykh Muhammad is a classic example, the mastermind of the September the 11th attack that killed over 3,000 of our citizens. And he is being detained because we think he could possibly give us information that might not only protect us, but protect citizens in Europe. And at some point in time, he’ll be dealt with, but right now, we think it’s best that he be — he be kept in custody.
We want to learn as much as we can in this new kind of war about the intention, and about the methods, and about how these people operate. And they’re dangerous, and they’re still around, and they’ll kill in a moment’s notice.
In the long run, the best way to protect ourselves is to spread freedom and human rights and democracy. And — but if you’ve got questions about Guantanamo, I seriously suggest you go down there and take a look. And — seriously, take an objective look as to how these folks are treated, and what has happened to them in the past, and when the courts make the decision they make, we’ll act accordingly.
Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you all very much for coming.