Dana Says Mike Mucousy Can Talk About Torture Once He’s Confirmed…
Q What does the White House think of the proposal by Senators McCain, Warner and Graham to have Judge Mukasey, if confirmed, say that no U.S. agency will use waterboarding?
MS. PERINO: What Judge Mukasey said in his letter to the Senate is that he will, if confirmed, thoroughly review all the legal opinions and all of the classified programs that he will then be read into. And I think that’s a very reasonable position. And he said that if confirmed he would do that, and I think that’s what the senators are saying in that letter, “as Attorney General.” And I think that bodes well for his nomination, that they intend for him to be confirmed.
Q Well, what their letter says is, we urge you publicly make clear that waterboarding can never be employed. I think that’s a little more —
MS. PERINO: While they were saying is — which Judge Mukasey has done, is to say, I will not be able to provide a legal opinion about any particular technique. He is not read into the programs. He’s right now a private citizen. He is willing to serve his country. The President will say today, he is — the Attorney General is a critical member of the nation’s war on terror team, and that he needs to be confirmed immediately. And once he is confirmed, then the Congress has the capability to ask him to come to Congress and to testify on all sorts of matters, including this one.
Q Dana, a follow up on that. The McCain-Graham letter, on the assumption that Judge Mukasey is confirmed and is read into the program, your policy is still not to talk about specific methods, so he is, if he is confirmed, not going to be in a position to speak about waterboarding as being legal or not.
MS. PERINO: Let me remind you of something. Congress passed a law that this President signed regarding Detainee Treatment Act and also Congress said that the CIA’s program for interrogation is legal. They have been briefed on the legal underpinnings and they have been briefed on the techniques. So Congress — the appropriate members of Congress have all the information that they need about these programs. They are safe, they are effective, they are tough, and they are legal. And Judge Mukasey said that he will review all of the opinions and he will review the information he gets in his classified briefings, and that he will be able to have additional thought after that.
A lot of these discussions are held in closed session, and that’s appropriate because they’re classified for a reason.
Q Understood, but America’s allies in the world, the American people, they will never know whether or not Judge Mukasey is told, so long as the administration —
MS. PERINO: I think that’s a hypothetical that I’m just not prepared to go into right now. I don’t know what Judge Mukasey will or will not say, if confirmed.
Dana Don’t Know! But She Assumes
Q To follow on that, is Senator McCain specifically among those who has been briefed and knows exactly what techniques are being used?
MS. PERINO: I don’t know the names of all the members that have been briefed. I know that the — I would have to go back and look; I believe that he has been given information.
Dana Doesn’t Know Who The Acting Attorney General Is
Q Can I follow up on that? If this position is so important, in part, in terms of national security, why didn’t President Bush ask the former Attorney General to stay in office until the confirmation of his successor, as most other Cabinet officers have done?
MS. PERINO: Well, that was the — the former Attorney General, Al Gonzales, had decided he was ready to leave. We have someone there, Craig Morford, who is acting as the Attorney General*, so the Department does have leadership.
*Craig Morford is the Acting Deputy Attorney General. Peter Keisler is the Acting Attorney General.
Dana Puts The Repugnant In Republikkkan
Q Judge Mukasey did say in his answer that he, personally, finds waterboarding repugnant. Does the President share that view?
MS. PERINO: As I’ve said before, the President does not talk about any possible techniques that may or may not be used against captured terrorists when they are caught by the United States.
Q So he wrote this letter to the 10 Democrats who sit on the Judiciary Committee, and he said, “waterboarding, as it’s been described to him, is repugnant.” And I’m just wondering, in your view, can something be repugnant but also legal?
MS. PERINO: Look, as I said, I’m not going to comment on any techniques, I’m not going to comment on any of it. That was his personal view, and the senators, if they want to ask him more questions about that, should confirm him and then they’d have the opportunity to do so.
Tough Luck, Foreign Service Officers
Q Dana, does the President believe that Foreign Service Officers should be compelled to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan even when they express fears about doing so?
MS. PERINO: I understand that there is concern on behalf of many of the Foreign Service Officers at the State Department.
The President is concerned, but he also has confidence that Secretary Rice will handle this matter in a way that is caring for the people at the Foreign Service, but also ensures that the mission that the United States is on is supplemented by the Foreign Service Officers who took an oath in order to serve their country.
Q Does that mean that it is a requirement for them to serve, much like active duty military are compelled to serve? Are you equating those?
MS. PERINO: I don’t know all the rules that go into the regulations for Foreign Service Officers; I’d have to refer you to the State Department for that. They do serve our country very well; they’re in places all around the world. And obviously if there is a need to have additional people in — from the State Department serving in positions, then Secretary Rice might have to take the measure of directing people to go, but the preference is to have volunteers.
Japan Breaks Chimpy’s Heart
Q Yes, just to review the thing you touched on in the gaggle, about Japan calling its ships home and ending the refueling mission; you said you were going to talk to the Japanese and, as I understood it, get them to reconsider that.
MS. PERINO: We would like for them to reconsider their decision to stop the refueling. They’ve played a very important role, and the President will be looking forward to talking to the new Prime Minister when he comes in the next few weeks. You know, until we have more an update, I’ll have to defer.
Q Are there alternatives for them? I mean, are they — they’ve announced, as I understand it, an increase in other kinds of aid to the Afghan mission. Is there an alternative or —
MS. PERINO: I have not heard that. Obviously, whatever sort of assistance they want to provide in the mission, we would appreciate. But we do think that refueling was very important and we’d like for them to continue.
Rummy Breaks Chimpy’s Heart
Q Going back to the question that came up in the gaggle, I asked you about the memos that are published in the Post from Donald Rumsfeld and his quote that “oil wealth has made Muslims averse to physical labor” —
MS. PERINO: That is not — I went back and looked and that is not all in line with the President’s views. What the President will say today, however, is that one of the things that we have to focus on is promoting liberty, because liberty has the capacity to transform societies from hopeless ones into hopeful societies, where people feel that they have a strong future, where they’ll be able to provide for their families and have — lead good, productive lives. And it’s one of the things we’re trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan and all throughout the world.
Q Arab American groups are already speaking out about this. They’ve had, obviously, an angry reaction to the quote from Rumsfeld.
MS. PERINO: I can understand why.
Q What effect do you think is — they say it’s going to have a chilling effect on the administration’s outreach efforts to the Muslim world?
MS. PERINO: Well, again, I just said that it’s not in line with the President’s views.
What About The State Of Les Kinsolving’s Mental Health?
Q And after the Democratic presidential debate, The Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed candidate Kucinich and quoted him as saying of President Bush, “I seriously believe we have to start asking question about his mental health.” And my question: Does the White House believe that during the debate, the Kucinich admission that he has seen a UFO demonstrates the quality of Kucinich mental health analysis?
MS. PERINO: I’m not going to comment. I think that speaks for itself.
Q It speaks for itself? Oh, thank you very much.