What’sThis? Tony Farto Again Today? Geeze, They Really Don’t Trust Dana Peroxide With Hard Kweshins, Do They?
Q Tony, waterboarding is, as you know, explicitly forbidden in the new Army Field Manual. One of the rationales that military officers tell me is the reason for that is that what we do to people in other countries, they will eventually do to Americans. Doesn’t allowing waterboarding and not forbidding it in all circumstances essentially say that it’s appropriate for U.S. troops to be waterboarded by other countries under similar circumstances?
MR. FRATTO: No, it doesn’t. But in terms of the operational use of any enhanced interrogation technique, I’ll let the agency comment on that — the Central Intelligence Agency runs the program and I’ll allow them to comment on it.
Q Is the President concerned at all that by not forbidding it, that raises the likelihood that it would be used against Americans?
MR. FRATTO: I think the advice that the President gets from people like General Hayden and the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, and the Attorney General, they consider all of those considerations before they decide which interrogation techniques should be part of the CIA program.
Q Is that a slippery slope, though, for other countries who are then looking at the United States as — people have been posing these examples. I know you don’t want to speculate —
MR. FRATTO: No, I don’t think so. I think other countries should be impressed that there is a rigorous process with legal review that takes into account the law and that we have national laws that govern what we do.
Q The flip side of that is you’re still not ruling it out. It remains a possibility.
MR. FRATTO: I’m not in a position, and no one is in a position, to rule anything in or out, because I can’t speculate in terms of the future as to what Director Hayden or any future director of the Central Intelligence Agency may bring as a proposed technique that he or she believes will garner the intelligence that they’re seeking. You know, we can’t speculate on what all of those factors are, and I’m not going to do it for one particular technique, and I don’t think anyone else can either.
Q No, but you leave the impression that the United States is willing to do it if it feels necessary.
MR. FRATTO: No. I think we acknowledged that it had been done in the past and in an exceedingly limited way, with safeguards and under certain circumstances.
Q What you’re saying — sorry, Tony. What you’re saying is that the law has changed, but it has not changed enough for a blanket “we rule this out forever”?
MR. FRATTO: Well, I think that’s clear. I mean, we can go back to the debate on the — I believe in the Military Commissions Act — I’m sorry, it might have been the Detainee Treatment Act — where they went through a discussion of whether to, through statute, ban certain techniques. And the Senate failed to do that. They chose not to do that.
Q But Senator McCain and some of the other authors of that law believe that they did do that.
MR. FRATTO: I understand. I understand that.
Helen Takes A Shot At It
Q Does the President think he’s above the law in breaking the law on torture?
MR. FRATTO: No, the President believes he should always seek counsel of those who speak for the law, which would be the Department of Justice and the Attorney General. And that is what he has always done.
Q He’s read enough about waterboarding now. Does he think it is torture?
MR. FRATTO: I’m not going to speculate on —
Q He knows about it, though. He knows how it’s been applied.
MR. FRATTO: No, I don’t think I can give a good answer to that question.
Bring ‘Em On!
Q Tony, if al Qaeda were to use waterboarding on an American prisoner, would the Bush administration consider that to be torture?
MR. FRATTO: I’m not going to speculate on anything that people do to U.S. soldiers or special operations forces.
‘Cause Chimpy Says So
Q Tony, I know you did this this morning, but could you just again clarify: Does the White House believe that waterboarding is illegal? Because some of the comments you made yesterday you said were misconstrued or somehow characterized incorrectly.
MR. FRATTO: I think I was very clear on it, in that the techniques that were discussed and that were used in this program. The Central Intelligence Agency went to the Department of Justice and asked for a specific legal review, as to the legality of those techniques, when they used it, at that time, and with the — under the circumstances in which they would be used. And the Department of Justice made a legal determination at that time.
Q Just so I’m clear — so the legality of waterboarding, essentially what you’re saying, is dependent on obviously the circumstances involved and what the outcome of the legal review is at the time. So there is no yes or no, clear-cut, blanket answer to that question, “is it illegal”?
MR. FRATTO: No.
Not A Ditto-Head?
Q Has [Chimpy] listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio?
MR. FRATTO: He hasn’t had the time, I don’t think.
Chimpy Stamps His Little Feet
Q Quick follow-up on the nominations — is it true that Senator Reid told President Bush over breakfast a while back that he would let all of these nominations go through if the name of Steven Bradbury was withdrawn?
MR. FRATTO: I don’t usually comment on conversations between the President and leaders —
Q Reid announced it on the floor.
MR. FRATTO: — and I saw that Senator Reid said this on the floor, and I think he had conversations with Chief of Staff Bolten, and I think that conversation had something to do with recess appointments of Steven Bradbury, not withdrawing Steve Bradbury’s nomination. So it was a very specific offer from Senator Reid, but I think — you know, let’s be clear about this and take a step back.
Q Tony, Reid’s quote on that was — he said he called John Bolten, who, “He called me back and said it is Bradbury or nobody. I said, you’re willing to now allow 84 of your people to get approved because of this guy? He said, yep, that’s what the President wants.”
MR. FRATTO: I think what the ask of the administration was, was for the President to give up his constitutional authority to make recess appointments. The power to make recess appointments is granted to the President in the Constitution. And that’s what the President was being asked to forego.
Now, the Senate, then, went and took the extra constitutional act of — over the holidays, of engaging in speed sessions with the soul purpose of frustrating the President’s constitutional authority to make appointments.
So it’s not an offer that we make — you know, that we would find credible or appropriate. And it’s also, again, not the way this system is intended to work. The system — the way it is intended to work is the President nominates, the Senate reviews the nominee, and they can give an up or down vote on these nominees, and we can either put them in place, as the President intended, or the Senate can vote them down. That’s the power that the Constitution gives them.