[JURIST] US President George W. Bush Friday defended [remarks] his administration's interrogation policy, saying that the "government does not torture people" and that it "stick[s] to US law and our international obligations." Bush was responding to Congressional demands for two 2005 Department of Justice opinion letters [JURIST reports] that reportedly endorsed harsh interrogation tactics. Bush said:
I have put this program in place for a reason, and that is to better protect the American people. And when we find somebody who may have information regarding an – a potential attack on America, you bet we're going to detain them, and you bet we're going to question them – because the American people expect us to find out information – actionable intelligence so we can help protect them. That's our job…[W]e got professionals who are trained in this kind of work to get information that will protect the American people.
Bush defended the interrogation techniques by insisting that their use allowed CIA operatives to get information from high-value detainees. He also said that appropriate members of the US Congress had been fully informed of the techniques used.
The existence of the letters was first revealed [report text] by the New York Times Thursday. Officials speaking to the Times on condition of anonymity said the 2005 opinions remain in effect today and have been confirmed by subsequent internal legal memoranda. White House spokesperson Tony Fratto on Wednesday refused to comment on the 2005 opinions, but said the administration has been mindful that all interrogation practices are legal under US and international law. James Comey [official profile], the former US Deputy Attorney General who in 2004 opposed Gonzales' attempts to persuade then-US Attorney General John Ashcroft [JURIST report] to reauthorize the warrantless domestic spying program while he was in the hospital, told the Times that he disagreed with the opinions. Comey said he told DOJ colleagues in 2005 they would be "ashamed" of the opinions if the public became aware of them. AP has more.