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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. JIM JORDAN (D-OH): Let me thank our witnesses as well. I know they've been here several hours and done a tremendous job.

I just want to -- and I'll start with the Attorney General, I want to give you a chance to talk about this -- this respect issue that's been raised. I think Mr. Dellinger in his opening comments talked about a country respected by the world. The subcommittee chairman, Representative Nadler, had -- and I'm quoting from a New York Times story a couple of weeks ago -- it said that as a result of the harsh interrogations, quote, "the reputation of this nation and our standing as a leading exponent of human rights and human dignity has been seriously damaged".

And, you know, I'd like your thoughts on that, and I guess I wanted to give it a little context, too. You know I -- when I hear statements like that I think about, you know, somehow they've forgotten all the good things that our country does. I think about the relief we provide people when there's disaster around the world. I think about what we do for helping African nations with AIDS, with malaria. I think about what we did with the tsunami relief effort a few years ago. And -- so, again, just your thoughts on those statements and activities that the Justice Department was involved with over the last several years. And we'll start with General Ashcroft.

MR. ASHCROFT: Well, first of all, I am concerned and care about, I guess that's the right word -- concerned sounds like -- but I do care about how we are viewed abroad.

REP. JORDAN: Certainly.

MR. ASHCROFT: I do believe, as Ronald Reagan said, that we are a city set on a hill, that we stand for something. But I also believe that there are forces afoot in the world that are against what we stand for. They don't believe in the freedom we believe in, and they believe in what I call imposition, that they want to impose their religion, impose their views on other people and they're willing not to offer it in the marketplace but to impose it by terror. They seek to force people to their view.

And I think we have to resist them. And in doing so, whenever you fight for what you believe in, there is a risk that someone will misinterpret what you're doing. The risk is enhanced and is expanded when you may be misrepresented in what you're doing.

REP. JORDAN: Mm-hum.

MR. ASHCROFT: The suggestion with the reckless labeling of enhanced interrogation techniques that they are automatically torture does little to help our image overseas, in spite of the fact that the best legal minds I know that have looked at this very carefully have concluded that it's not torture.

And with that in mind, I think we have to defend ourselves and we have to represent and defend freedom as aggressively as we can and we should do what we can to make sure that don't unduly besmirch the reputation of the United States by recklessly charging --

REP. JORDAN: Mm-hum.

MR. ASHCROFT: -- that the officials of the United States are engaged in activities in which they are not engaged. So my own view is that we have to do what's right; that's the first responsibility we have. And the second responsibility we have is having done what's right we have to make sure we do our best to market it so that the world doesn't misinterpret it, and we don't allow people to take what we've done which is right and try and portray it as being criminal.

REP. JORDAN: Well, maybe I'll go to Mr. Wittes. Do you believe Mr. Wittes that there are some individuals out there who are so -- terrorists who are so evil that it -- all the great things that our country does -- you know, there's nothing that's going to diminish the hatred they have for the United States.

MR. WITTES: I have no doubt of that.

REP. JORDAN: Okay. Mr. Dellinger you had made a comment in your opening statement, I feel like we should give you a chance to respond to the kind of general question about respect and -- go ahead.

MR. DELLINGER: Well I think that the pictures from Abu Ghraib have hurt our reputation in the world, whatever term one uses to describe that. I also agree with you that there are people who would hate the U.S. regardless of what we did.



MR. ASHCROFT: You know, I think the -- in some ways the reputational question is more salient less with respect to how much the terrorists hate us than to how wide an audience they have for that hatred. And, you know, I think to the extent that we have a set of laws that we're proud of, that we, you know, observe meticulously and that we are not sort of constantly chafing at and finding ways to stress, you know, we put a better face to the people who the terrorists are talking to rather than -- but I wouldn't frame it as, you know, how the terrorists feel about it. These are not people that we're going to -- trying to impress really.

REP. JORDAN: Understand.

Thank you, Chairman.

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