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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. TRENT FRANKS (R-AZ): Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it. And I appreciate the tone of the Committee hearing so far, even though we perhaps have some differences here.

But Mr. -- General Dellinger I was especially as I would associate with the Ranking Member of the Committee, appreciated some of your comments and I couldn't help but be intrigued by your thoughts of making a law that did not provide for exceptions when dealing with that ticking bomb scenario, but that relied upon the courage of people to just do what was necessary to protect their country. And I find that very intriguing, quite honestly. But, and I say this in absolute respect to you, my concern is that something like that could only work in an environment where we had a little -- an age of Congressional reason because this hearing in my judgment is proof that we're kind of off track here already. I mean, I think that the administration and the Attorney General here in my judgment -- the evidence that I've seen is that they've acted well within their Constitutional bounds, and yet we still are dragging them before this Committee. And I wonder what we would do if they actually had to work and do something that was along the lines that you talked.

So I'm very concerned about --we've had 11 hearings that in my judgment make the lives of terrorists easier and make it more difficult for us to protect citizens from terrorists in this Committee. And I don't know of one that we've had that makes it easier for us to defend citizens against terrorists. And I think, you know, balance is one thing but 11 to 0, that concerns me. And I think it represents essentially a misunderstanding of what we're really up against.

And so I want to start with a quote by Mr. Stuart Taylor. He wrote in the National Journal, "the CIA had reason to believe that unlocking the secrets of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed might save hundreds of lives and perhaps many, many more, in the unlikely but then conceivable event that al Qaeda was preparing a nuclear or biological attack on a major American city. This tough, smart, committed jihadist was not about to betray his cohorts to his hated enemies if the interrogators stuck to the kid-glove interrogation rules demanded by human rights groups and, recently, by most Congressional Democrats," unquote.

Now I think Mr. Taylor was correct. I even in this Committee asked Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, how she would write a statute defining how terrorists should be handled, what we should do to try to encourage them to give information that they didn't want to give voluntarily. And I want to just say -- I'll read what her reply was. She said, "Well what kind of a statute would I write? I would write a statute that says when you're interrogating a prisoner that you want to get information from and you treat them with kindness, compassion and empathy, you gain his trust, you get him to like you and trust you, and he will turn over information to you."

Now I wish the world was like that, I really do -- you know, I teach Sunday School for 2-year olds, I really wish the world was like that. But unfortunately the terrorists have shown that they have a little different mindset than we do. And I am convinced that unless we get a hold of that, there will be blood on the wall again in this country, and we will look back to committees like this and wonder why we weren't focusing on more of our primary job, which is to defend our citizens.

So my first question is to you, General Ashcroft, and I want to be fully open about this.

I think that General Ashcroft's career is a model to public service, so I'm very biased. But I want to ask you, General Ashcroft, what was your goal in these discussions that we're having -- what was your goal at that time and in what legal framework were you trying to pursue that goal and trying to accomplish the things that you believed that needed to be done?

MR. ASHCROFT: Well, I think we wanted to do everything within our power and within the law to provide a basis for defending America, and I came back to the Justice Department and I put it this way. I said, we've got to think outside the box. We can't be thinking just like we always thought because the same things will happen to us that happened before. But I said, we can never think outside the Constitution. And that was the way of saying we've got to -- we've got to change. If you don't change you get what you got before. You know, Albert Einstein put it this way. He said, ignorance is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Well, we needed a different result -- we didn't want to get hit again -- so we needed to change -- we needed to be able to do things but we needed to do them within the Constitution. That was the controlling motivator for me. Sounds pretty simple but my view is that it was the right thing to do and I -- I believe that should be -- when it comes to national defense we ought to be thinking in those terms -- what is -- what is -- what are the tools that are available to us -- and what are the legal tools that are available to us and we should use them.

REP. FRANKS: All right. Well, Mr. Chairman, I can only say that I believe that that perspective will be vindicated in history -- the coincidence of terrorism and nuclear proliferation I am afraid make us -- they make it necessary for us to look at this a little bit differently than we have and I hope that General Ashcroft's perspective prevails in the final analysis. Thank you very much. I yield back.

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