What we have is a Military Commissions Act that, in response to the United States Supreme Court's decision in the Hamdan case, involves congressional authorization for military commissions, which have been a factor of American justice in times of war since the founding era. What we have done is put together with —— again, in consultation with Congress, ways in which we can, in keeping with our treaty obligations and laws, question enemy combatants, bring them to justice, or in many cases, what we've been trying to do at Guantanamo, try to repatriate them either to home nations or nations under which they have been charged with criminal offenses, and who, upon receiving them, will observe and honor their human rights.
Q Tony, can you tell us how quickly the CIA interrogators will begin resuming their questioning?
MR. SNOW: No. Let me explain —— go ahead.
Q —— references to the CIA program.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q That mean you're going to continue secret prisons and torture?
MR. SNOW: Number one —— first ——
Q Torture as we know it, not as you interpret it ——
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think ——
Q —— which is water—boarding, deprivation of sleep and so forth.
MR. SNOW: First, as you know, torture is illegal. Furthermore ——
Q I didn't say that. But we've seen photographs, we've seen the horror of it all.
MR. SNOW: What photograph have you seen of ——
Q Abu Ghraib and so forth.
MR. SNOW: Abu Ghraib is something that was a criminal —— was, in fact, a criminal infraction for which people were charged.
Q How do we know it doesn't go on above ——
MR. SNOW: Are you saying that the people —— the U.S. servicemen ——
Q I'm saying to you that there have been allegations all the way through that we don't treat —— that we coerce testimony.
MR. SNOW: On the other hand, the International Committee of the Red Cross regularly visits Guantanamo and talks to everyone there, and has, in fact, seen the high—value detainees. The United States has made it possible —— interestingly, many of the people making these particular allegations have refused to go to Guantanamo and assess for themselves what's going on; instead, they've based it on hearsay testimony.
The United States has set up a system —— and General Hayden talked about this —— that goes through extraordinary lengths to make sure that the questioning is done in a way that is effective and also humane.
Q Well, how do we know that? What kind of checks do the American people have?
MR. SNOW: Well, Helen, I'm not sure that you're going to trust anything that people tell you in good faith. It's the law. And the people who engage in this are very proud of their professionalism and the steps they take. For instance —— I'll go back through it again, because it's probably worth reminding people. You have folks who have to have demonstrated maturity before they're even allowed to get into the questioning program. There are 250 hours of original training, plus you have to have 40 hours working with somebody who has already been authorized to do training before you can engage in an interrogation. Also, in any interrogation, there is an outside observer who, at any point, for any reason, can interrupt the questioning, saying that they think that it's inappropriate and it can ——
Q Can we know what the guidelines are in terms of how they're enforced or interrogated ——
MR. SNOW: No, the government will not tell you the precise questioning techniques, for the reasons that have been outlined many times before, which is that you do not want to give those who are apprehended, or terrorists, the ability to plan in advance for techniques that might be used. However, there are pretty extensive guidelines not only in this particular legislation, but also in U.S. law and international treaty obligations, that not only —— torture is completely out of the question, but also so—called grave offenses that have been outlined in the Geneva Conventions, and in fact, are mentioned in this law, as well.
For instance, cruel or inhumane treatment; performing biological experiments; murder and mutilation and intentionally causing serious bodily injury; rape, sexual assault or abuse; taking hostages. Those are obviously the gravest infractions, but there are also —— within the law, in Section 6 of the law, that govern ways in which people may conduct these things.
Q But you're not suggesting this is an easy question—and—answer session?
MR. SNOW: No, I'm not suggesting anything. You may have seen one of the stories where one of the most effective interrogators was described as a grandmotherly person who made people friends. Keep in mind that ultimately you want to have the condition where they are going to be cooperative. And beyond that, I'm simply not going to ——
Q You would need special legislation for that?
MR. SNOW: Don't know.
Q You said that it's classified on whether we believe in water—boarding.
MR. SNOW: No, I said I'm not going to talk about water—boarding, nor am I going to talk about any other technique, real or imagined. That's been our position from the start.
Q So how will the President convince Americans that the kind of interrogation and the kind of pursuit of terrorists is something they can be proud of?
MR. SNOW: Well, the question is —— it's interesting, if you live in an atmosphere where people are automatically going to assume that people who are serving their nation are doing so dishonorably —— and that would have to be the assumption here, the people doing the questioning, in fact, are rogue actors and not people acting scrupulously within the law and proud of what they do —— then there's absolutely no way to persuade somebody. People are not going to be able to see this. However, we have tried to make it as transparent as possible by inviting in regularly the International Committee of the Red Cross. You guys can go to Guantanamo any time you want; many of you have been there.
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