Tony Snow said President Bush would announce significant news today, so I am live blogging his speech on the War on Terror.
After President Bush speaks of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 he says the terrorists have not succeeded in attacking us because of the hard work of a lot of American people and because we have changed our policies. Our country has the tools necessary to fight the terrorists.
He says that the captured terrorists have given us a lot of important intelligence on terrorists and their locations. Because of what the detainees have told us, we have been able to kill many terrorists.
He says we have the right under the laws of war and an obligation to our citizens to keep these terrorists from reentering the terrorist efforts.
Important detainees are held in secret and questioned by experts to get the information needed. Some are sent to Gitmo. We have a rigorous process to make sure those who belong at Gitmo stay at Gitmo. Here's a quote from Bush "They are in our custody so they can not murder people." President Bush said that our troops guarding Gitmo get threatened regularly.
He talks about the importance of the secret locations where detainees were held so that they could provide intelligence. It was necessary to keep these locations a secret so as to not put our country, our allies and other countries at risk.
He outlines some examples of how this system has worked to save Americans' lives:
Abu Zubaydah was captured in 2001. He was a senior terrorist leader and trusted associate of OBL. He disclosed information that allowed us to capture Khalid Sheik Muhammad. He also gave information on operatives here in the US. They were captured as well. After a while, Zubaydah stopped talking. It became clear that he was trained on how to resist questioning. Other methods were then used. They were designed to be save, tough, and lawful.
Ramzi Binalshibh was also captured because of information Zubaydah gave us because of these other methods.
This program to get information from detainees is the reason why the terrorists have not succeeded committing another terrorist attack on America.
Those who were conducting the most sensitive questioning had to have an additional 200 hours of special training in order to be involved. President Bush then said that it is important that the United States does not torture. He does not authorize it and will not authorize it. He reiterated his support for the anti-torture law sponsored by John McCain.
The rules for trying enemies in combat must be different than from trying common criminals. He then mentions the Hamdan case. He said that the Supreme Court said military commissions are acceptable as long as they are authorized by Congress. Today President Bush is sending legislation for the creation of military tribunals to try terrorists for war crimes.
Khalid Sheik Muhammad, Ramzi Binalshibh, Abu Zubaydah, and 11 others have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay so they can be tried for killing almost 3,000 Americans "and face justice."
Those involved in the attack on the USS Cole and the embassies in Tanzania will also be prosecuted.
These men are being held at a high security facility and the Red Cross will have access to them. The terrorists will have access to attorneys and will be presumed innocent. They will have the same experience and food as the other detainees in Gitmo.
President Bush says that the reason Guantanamo can't be closed is because the detainees home countries won't take them back. He hopes that someday it can be closed, but it's still needed right now.
About 315 detainees have been returned to their home countries and about 455 or so are still in our custody. And get this: they get the same medical treatment as our guards at Gitmo.
Right now there aren't any terrorists in the CIA program but as other high value terrorists are captured we need to get information from the terrorists. We need the program. Bush says that he is talking about this program now because in order to try these terrorists, the program have to come out into the open. Second, the Supreme Court made the military commissions more difficult. The Hamdan decision also calls the CIA program into question.
President Bush says that our troops in war need not only thanks and appreciation from all Americans, but they need exact rules about what consitutes war crimes. President Bush is also sending legislation to Congress to create clearly defined rules so that they know exactly what is prohibited in handling terrorists. Also he wants Congress to make sure that detained terrorists can't use the Geneva Conventions to bring law suits against our troops in US courts.
Congress is in session for the next few weeks and President Bush wants these two pieces of legislation to be the first priority.
President Bush also will consult with Congress to make sure the CIA program stays within the law. We are fighting for our freedom and our way of life.
Overall, this was a great speech. The president was very forceful. It's too bad he was forced to disclose the existence the CIA program, but the Supreme Court forced the President to do so We need the CIA program because it's been instrumental in preventing another attack here. Many people have lamented the fact that too many Americans have forgotten how horrible 9/11 was, that too many Americans have gone back to a 9/10 world. It's because of the CIA program that we've had that luxury.
LGF commented on the speech and says this:
Prediction: the left will go nuts. But it's an easy prediction, because they always go nuts.
Ace hit the nail of President Bush's intentions on the head:
Wants Congress To Repudiate Supreme Court Decision On Granting Geneva Protections For Terrorists: Congress must list the "specific, recognizable offenses" that will invoke a War Crimes prosecution against interrogators.
Nice. Make Congress specifically say what is illegal -- and, by their omission, what is legal.
Congress dare not make belly-slapping illegal.
Put up or shut up.
Yep. No more screaming from the Dems in Congress about Americans torturing detainees. These folks get to set the rules. They will have America's national security in their hands. President Bush wants this legislation done before the Congressional term is over. It's a great opportunity to let the American people see where the Democrats sit on the handling of the most dangerous, evil terrorists this world has ever known. And right before the midterm elections. Brilliant.
Mario Loyola at The Corner also sees the brilliance in Bush's speech:
The President just pulled one of the best maneuvers of his entire presidency. By transferring most major Al Qaeda terrorists to Guantanamo, and simultaneously sending Congress a bill to rescue the Military Commissions from the Supreme Court's ruling Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the President spectacularly ambushed the Democrats on terrain they fondly thought their own. Now Democrats who oppose (and who have vociferously opposed) the Military Commissions will in effect be opposing the prosecution of the terrorists who planned and launched the attacks of September 11 for war crimes.
And if that were not enough, the President also frontally attacked the Hamdan ruling's potentially chilling effect on CIA extraordinary interrogation techniques, by arguing that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is too vague, and asking Congress to define clearly the criminal law limiting the scope of permissible interrogation.
Taken as a whole, the President's maneuver today turned the political tables completely around. He stole the terms of debate from the Democrats, and rewrote them, all in a single speech. It will be delightful to watch in coming days and hours as bewildered Democrats try to understand what just hit them, and then sort through the rubble of their anti-Bush national security strategy to see what, if anything, remains.
Lorie adds: I caught most of the speech in the car. (I have yet to figure out a way to blog while driving.) This is huge and a brilliant move. Classic Bush -- let the Democrats work themselves into a frenzy attacking a man and a policy they think are on the ropes, then *thwack* -- make everything they have said over the past week sound ridiculous in light of the new information and proposal. Will Democrats never learn?
Others live blogging the speech: