Bush says torture is good

President Bush defended his administration’s methods of detaining and questioning terrorism suspects on Friday, saying both are successful and lawful.

“When we find somebody who may have information regarding a potential attack on America, you bet we’re going to detain them, and you bet we’re going to question them,” he said during a hastily called Oval Office appearance. “The American people expect us to find out information, actionable intelligence so we can help protect them. That’s our job.”

Bush volunteered his thoughts on a report on two secret 2005 memos that authorized extreme interrogation tactics against terror suspects. “This government does not torture people,” the president said.

Meanwhile, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., demanded a copy of a third Justice Department memo justifying military interrogations of terror suspects held outside the United States.

In a letter to Attorney General-nominee Michael Mukasey, Levin wrote that two years ago he requested — and was denied — the March 14, 2003, legal opinion. Levin asked if Mukasey would agree to release the opinion if the Senate confirms him as attorney general, and cited what he described as a history of the Justice Department stonewalling Congress.

“Such failures and the repeated refusal of DoJ to provide Congress with such documents has prevented the Congress from fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to conduct oversight,” Levin wrote.

The White House said Mukasey has not been cleared to read the classified documents Levin requested.

The two Justice Department legal opinions from 2005 were disclosed in Thursday’s editions of The New York Times, which reported that the first opinion authorized the use of painful methods, such as head slaps, freezing temperatures and simulated drownings known as waterboarding, in combination.

That secret opinion came months after a December 2004 opinion in which the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” and the administration seemed to back away from claiming authority for such practices, and after the withdrawal of a 2002 classified Justice opinion that had allowed certain aggressive interrogation practices so long as they stopped short of producing pain equivalent to experiencing organ failure or death.

The second Justice opinion was issued later in 2005, just as Congress was working on an anti-torture bill. The opinion declared that none of the CIA’s interrogation practices would violate provisions in the legislation banning “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of detainees, The Times said, citing interviews with unnamed current and former officials.

Though both memos remain in effect, the White House insisted they represented no change from the 2004 policy.

“We stick to U.S. law and international obligations,” Bush said, without taking questions after a brief picture-taking session.

Speaking emphatically, the president noted that “highly trained professionals” conduct any questioning. “And by the way,” he said, “we have gotten information from these high-value detainees that have helped protect you.”

“The American people expect their government to take action to protect them from further attack,” Bush said. “And that’s exactly what this government is doing. And that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do.”

He also said the techniques used by the United States “have been fully disclosed to appropriate members of the United States Congress” — an indirect slap at the torrent of criticism that has flowed from the Democratic-controlled Congress since the disclosure of the memos.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said those briefed on Capitol Hill “are satisfied that the policy of the United States and the practices do not constitute torture.” She refused to define, however, what would be considered torture, or off-limits, in interrogations.

“I just fundamentally disagree that that would be a good thing for national security,” she said. “I think the American people recognize that there are needs that the federal government has to keep certain information private in order to help their national security. … We cannot provide more information about techniques. It’s not appropriate.”

CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden issued a memo to agency employees Friday that said the CIA has not withheld information from Congress and the legal opinion has not “opened the door” to harsher interrogation techniques than the law allows.

But House and Senate Democrats disagree that there is sufficient clarity on the matter, and are demanding to see the memos.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WVa., said in a statement Friday he is “tired of these games.”

“They can’t say that Congress has been fully briefed while refusing to turn over key documents used to justify the legality of the program,” Rockefeller said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., promised a congressional inquiry.

Another White House spokesman, meanwhile, criticized the leak of such information to the news media and questioned the motivations of those who do so.

“It’s troubling,” White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said Friday. “I’ve had the awful responsibility to have to work with The New York Times and other news organizations on stories that involve the release of classified information. And I can tell you that every time I’ve dealt with any of these stories, I have felt that we have chipped away at the safety and security of America with the publication of this kind of information.”

The CIA has interrogated fewer than 100 “hardened” terrorists and has used “special methods of questioning” on a third of them, according to Hayden.


  1. Sandra Price

    So Bush wants the truth about our enemies even if it means torture. Had he paid attention to the Security information before 9/11, we would not be torturing anyone. He is day late and a dollar short and should be unseated quickly.

    He may be a Christian but has no sense of American Values and has never put America first in any way. He wanted this war before he was elected and he is now lying in his teeth about how he is using the label Commander in Chief. He is no better than Stalin or Hitler but we are in for one more year of this cretin. I cannot in any possible way ever vote for a Republican again until the core of the party is destroyed and some honest, moral and decent people can be found. The GOP caved in too easily under this religious despot.

  2. old_curmudgeon

    By any definition of “christian” Bush isn’t. Because he says he is doesn’t make it so. Last I checked, mass murder and torture were not Christian values.

    Going to a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a porsche. But, that’s just this old curmudgeon’s opinion.

  3. Jenifer D.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s ironic what an interesting family history our current prez has:

    Grampy Prescott made the family fortune dealing with Hitler’s companies, Hitler being a known an enemy of the U.S. (his assets seized in 1942 under the ‘Trading with the Enemy Act). Then his father, George Sr., heading up the CIA before he became prez, the cast of characters (Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld) and a few others who don’t seem to go away, they just play musical political chairs.

    Now W is in office for two terms (I do not believe he won either election legally) and everytime I see him on television the deepening lines in his face, the darting eyes, and the posturing tells me he is anything, but, in charge. He allowed a privately contracted merc outfit, whose CEO has given much moolah to the GOP, go into a combat zone and not only endangered U.S. troops, but, has brought much shame on the U.S. because these mercs are not bound by any rules of engagement and they refuse to be held accountable for their actions.

    I suspect these are the same loose cannons who were contracted to conduct interrogations of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib; they were allowed to work alongside U.S. soldiers who are held accountable under the provisions of UCMJ, Code of Conduct, and the Geneva Conventions and these mercs have ZERO regard for that. We’re Mercs Inc. held accountable for the atrocities? No, they weren’t. The enlisted soldiers under their supervision were held accountable while Mercs Inc. slipped away into the shadows, with their tidy paychecks stashed under their hats.

    All-in-all, I think it’s disgusting that many U.S. voters are standing by, watching this debacle unfold and it isn’t going to hit home how much damage has been done to our U.S. Constitution until their precious cable television is taken away, or their internet blocked, or some other instant gratification they’re accustomed to; that’s when the damage hits home!

    The system of checks and balances isn’t working because the people it has been entrusted to (our elected officials) are afraid to use it. Does #43 and his lackeys have that much dirt on everyone in office? J. Edgar Hoover’s ghost must be pulling the puppet strings this year.

  4. JudyB

    For once I ALMOST agree with the dolt! However, it should instead be both he & Cheney that are faced with undergoing the type of “harsh” questioning he’s so eager and willing to put to others under, after all, it seems millions of folks think he is the number one danger the USA has had to deal with DAILY.

  5. Steve Horn

    The true enemy of the American people IS Bush – betcha he’d cry like a baby if he even suspected that he was going to face “harsh interrogation” techniques …

  6. old_curmudgeon

    I bet that if we subjected B&C to “enhanced interrogation techinques” we could get them to “admit” to staging/allowing 9/11 to provide the “excuse” to attack Iraq…to abrogate the Constitution…