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President Asks Congress to Authorize Tribunals for Detainees

President Bush announced that 14 terror suspects, including the alleged organizer of the 9/11 attacks, will be transferred from secret CIA facilities to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He also urged Congress to authorize the use of tribunals to comply with a Supreme Court decision.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And the president's terrorist announcement, Ray Suarez has our story.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    President Bush defended the previously secret CIA program to imprison and interrogate high-level al-Qaida detainees captured early in the war on terror. Today was the first time he spoke of it publicly.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: This program has been and remains one of the most vital tools in our war against the terrorists. It is invaluable to America and to our allies. Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives.

    This program has been subject to multiple legal reviews by the Department of Justice and CIA lawyers. They have determined it complied with our laws.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The president also announced, he was sending to Congress new rules for military tribunals to try hundreds of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay.

    Among his audience in the White House East Room were family members of 9/11 victims.

  • BUSH:

    We're now approaching the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And the families of those murdered that day have waited patiently for justice. Some of the families are with us today. They should have to wait no longer.

    So, I'm announcing today that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh, and 11 other terrorists in CIA custody have been transferred to the United States naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

  • BUSH:

    They are being held in the custody of the Department of Defense. As soon as Congress acts to authorize the military commissions I have proposed, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September the 11th, 2001, can face justice.

    With these prosecutions, we will send a clear message to those who kill Americans. No longer — how long it takes, we will find you and we will bring you to justice.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The Bush administration's original plan, to try detainees in military tribunals, was struck down by the Supreme Court in June. A majority of justices ruled, the tribunals needed to abide by the rules of the Geneva Conventions and be authorized by Congress.

  • BUSH:

    Some ask, why are you acknowledging this program now?

    There are two reasons why I'm making these limited disclosures today.

    First, we have largely completed our questioning of the men. And, to start the process for bringing them to trial, we must bring them into the open.

    Second, the Supreme Court's recent decision has impaired our ability to prosecute terrorists through military commissions, and has put in question the future of the CIA program. In its ruling on military commissions, the court determined that a provision of the Geneva Conventions known as Common Article 3 applies to our war with al-Qaida.

    This article includes provisions that prohibit — prohibit outrages upon personal dignity and humiliating and — and degrading treatment. The problem is that these and other provisions of Common Article 3 are vague and undefined.

    And each could be interpreted in different ways by American or foreign judges. And some believe our military and intelligence personnel involved in capturing and questioning terrorists could now be at risk for prosecution under the War Crimes Act, simply for doing their jobs in a thorough and professional way.

    This is unacceptable.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Congress plans to take up Mr. Bush's legislative proposals next week.

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