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Hearing of the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommitee of the House Judiciary Committee - From the Department of Justice to Guantanamo Bay: Administration Lawyers and Administration Interrogation Rules, Part V


Location: Washington, DC

REP. ELTON GALLEGLY (R-CA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome, General and Mr. Wittes and Professor Dellinger.

In your opening statement, General Ashcroft, you talked about the success, if you will, of how we have been able to avoid any significant attacks since 9/11, something that we have all been concerned about. Unfortunately, sometimes people have a tendency to kind of forget after a period of a year or two years or three years, although the threat is still there, even though we have had success.

Some might argue that that has just been a matter of luck. Some might argue that it is a hundred percent a result of the actions of your office and your successors.

But I think clearly -- the chairman asked, and Bobby Scott, my good friend from North Carolina, also asked about is this all a result of the Justice Department. The one thing that we all know that have been following this for years is the fact that there have been many -- many -- direct attacks that we're aware of that have been foiled by our interrogation process. Many are public, many are classified. But we do know that there have been specific attempts to attack us and do harm to the level of the World Trade Center and maybe even more, and they have been foiled.

You've also said, as I understand it, that to the best of your knowledge, that during your administration you lived within the letter of the law and as it related to your understanding of the interrogation process. Is that correct?

MR. ASHCROFT: My understanding of what process?

REP. GALLEGLY: What was legally permissible through the laws at the time as it related to interrogation.

MR. ASHCROFT: Yeah, I think the request for guidance on this by the administration signals that it's an administration that's very eager to do everything possible, but within the law. And there was almost an obsessive demand that we get clarity and do what we could to define the law clearly, because you had these parallel aspirations. One, we've got to stop terrorists; and two, we've got to do it within the law. So it demands and requires that you get as much definition as you can. And with that in mind, there was this sensitivity to making sure we stayed within the limits of the law, but we, within those limits, were as aggressive as possible in defending America.

REP. GALLEGLY: And in dealing with those limits, would you say that this nation, had we not used these interrogation techniques that we did during the past seven years, had we not used those, would the probability of another attack not only have been a probability, been a certainty?

MR. ASHCROFT: It could well have been. No one can say what would have happened exactly. But I believe specific attacks were disrupted --

REP. GALLEGLY: Well, we know for a fact that many were, and there are people in prison as a result of those.

MR. ASHCROFT: There are people in prison that were prosecuted successfully in this metropolitan area but all across America. I happened to have been attorney general when the excellent work of the prosecutors resulted -- (audio break).

MR. WITTES: (In progress following audio break.) And I've never engaged in, you know, a high-stakes interrogation.

REP. GALLEGLY: You have written about it.

MR. WITTES: But I think, you know, what we do know is that there has been, you know, a certain amount of training to know interrogation techniques. We also know that, you know, if you are trying to protect something, these are extremely motivated, serious people. And if you're trying to protect something, you have a lot of incentive to resist whatever interrogation techniques are being used.

And so I mean, I think, there's, you know, and that's true, by the way, in the criminal justice system too. You know, that's a general truth about trying to get information from non-cooperative suspects.

And so I mean, I think, you know, whenever you're an in-custody detainee who's trying to protect something, that you want to succeed, from an official who's trying to prevent you from doing it, you have a lot of incentive to use whatever resources are at your disposal including, in some cases, very high intelligence and, you know, very deep-seated convictions and motivations in order to, you know, protect those pieces of information that you're trying to protect.

REP. GALLEGLY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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