TorturingDana Over Torture
Q Did the questioning of al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah conform with the interrogation program approved by President Bush?
MS. PERINO: I can’t comment on any specifics. So you might want to rephrase your question. It’s not — what you’re asking me is not something that I can confirm or respond to in that way.
Q I’m asking if it was within the guidelines — the interrogation techniques, was that within the guidelines of these programs approved by the President?
MS. PERINO: I will say that all interrogations — all interrogations have been done within the legal framework that was set out after September 11th, and they are measures that have been tough and limited. They are safe, and they have been very effective in helping prevent terrorist attacks on this country. All of the — the entire program has been legal.
Q Are you saying that whatever was done in this case was not torture?
MS. PERINO: I am saying that the United States does not torture. The President has been —
Q No, I’m asking you if what was done in this case was not torture, in your opinion.
MS. PERINO: I’m saying the United States does not torture.
Q But when you have a former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, now saying that waterboarding was used — since you’re saying the interrogations were legal; he’s saying on the record now, waterboarding was used in at least one case. You’re saying waterboarding is legal?
MS. PERINO: Ed, I’m saying I’m not commenting on any specific technique. I’m not commenting on that gentleman’s characteristics of any possible technique. I’ve given you a very general statement about interrogations being legal, limited and —
Q You just said it was legal.
MS. PERINO: I’m sorry?
Q You said it was within the legal framework.
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q Everything that was done.
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q So waterboarding is legal.
MS. PERINO: I’m not commenting on any specific techniques. And you can ask me all sorts of different ways, and we can go back and forth, but I’m not going to do it, Ed.
The “Specific Technique” Is Out In The Open Now, Dana
Q Dana, can I come back to the waterboarding question? I understand the rationale for not wanting to discuss specific techniques — it’s to not tip off America’s enemies, to help them train as to how to evade what questioning they get. After a retired team member is on nationwide television explaining exactly what was done, is there an al Qaeda operative anywhere who doesn’t know that this might be in the arsenal?
MS. PERINO: Obviously, al Qaeda listens closely to everything that we do and say, and that’s something that we should be — that we should keep in mind. What the President said is that he’s going to do what it takes to protect this country in a legal way. The intelligence community has worked very hard in order to do that. Remember that the — and this is classified for a reason. We don’t talk about specific techniques. We don’t think it’s prudent. We don’t think it’s a good idea to do so.
Q It’s true that things are classified for a reason, but the reason they are classified is very often to spare the government embarrassment, and it is therefore just as reasonable to ask that that not be the case.
MS. PERINO: I’m not able to comment on it. I’ve given you all that I can.
Dana Peroxide Says Free Trade Counteracts Torture
Q You just have picked a man to sell public diplomacy. All over the world, there is an understanding that we do torture. They’ve seen the photographs, they’ve heard everything. You ought to be bound and determined to clear that up.
MS. PERINO: I actually disagree, Helen. I think that people, what they have seen, is a United States that is helping people develop their democracies. We have spread hope and liberty. We expand trade.
Not Concerned AboutThe Legalities
Q Has the President asked again recently of the Department of Justice whether all interrogation techniques currently being used are legal? And with the arrival of a new Attorney General, will he again seek assurances from the Department of Justice that all interrogation techniques are legal?
MS. PERINO: Well, I would refer you to Justice Department in terms of what the Attorney — the new Attorney General is seeking. But in 2004 the Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo, and I would refer you to Steve Bradbury’s comment when we dealt with this I think three months ago.
Q The President feels no need to follow up on that?
MS. PERINO: No.
Finally, Your Daily Les
Q The Washington Times reports that during a conference call with reporters, Democrat National Chairman declared that during a recent debate, Republicans used outrageous phrases like “illegal aliens.” And my question: Does the President agree with Chairman Dean that it is outrageous to describe lawbreakers as illegal aliens?
MS. PERINO: I think it’s — I actually think that it’s a legally defined term. But the President has set out a path on immigration, and I’m not going to comment any further on Howard Dean’s comments.