The experts have spoken.
Last week the former Vice President went on television to claim that ending torture, closing Guantanamo, and relying on our federal courts to try terrorism suspects somehow undermines American security. He's wrong. And today, Colin Powell and General David Petraeus definitively refuted him. General Petraeus, speaking on Meet the Press, said that torture has "bitten us in the backside" and that legal interrogations work. He also said that Guantanamo should be closed. On Face the Nation, Colin Powell agreed with General Petraeus that torture should not be American policy and that Guantanamo should close. Powell went on to state his support for trying terrorism suspects in federal court and to highlight flaws in the military commissions system. Some highlights:
Powell on How Article III Courts Beat Military Commissions:
"The issue about sending people to military commissions, we-- we're not using military commissions like we should. Any time you lock somebody up or you catch a terrorist let's give them the military commission. In eight years the military commissions have put three people on trial. Two of them served relatively short sentences and are free. One guy is in jail. Meanwhile, the federal courts,our Article III, regular legal court system, has put dozens of terrorists in jail and they're fully capable of doing it. So the suggestion that somehow a military commission is the way to go isn't born out by the history of the military commissions."
Powell on Misconceptions around Military Commissions:
"I think a lot of people think just give them to the military and the military will hammer them. Well, guess what, officers in the military are obliged to follow the constitution. Military lawyers are obliged under their oath to give the best possible defense to the defendant no more whether he's a terrorist or not. And so you didn't get out of the military commissions what a lot of people thought at the beginning you would get and a lot of us did not think it was a good idea in the beginning."
Powell on the Christmas Day Bomber:
"Well, I was a little surprised at what seemed to be a lack of coordination among the different agencies as to how they handle a guy and should he have been given his Miranda rights either after ninety minutes or fifteen hours. The story kept changing. And so I would have thought after all these years we would have had a process in place either in the previous administration or in this administration that when you get somebody like that we all know how to respond and how to interrogate him or not interrogate him. But he's in jail. He's facing trial. And I don't think it will be a difficult trial to handle. And, also, he's still talking. They found other ways to interrogate him. But even in the military commission, whoever is before that commission has legal rights. They get lawyers."
Powell on the Importance of Closing Guantanamo:
" . . .As does Secretary Gates and General Petraeus and so many others, John McCain and so many others, I think Guantanamo has cost us a lot over the years in terms of our standing in the world and the way in which despots have hidden behind what we have at Guantanamo to justify their own-- their own positions. Let's remember, Guantanamo once had seven hundred people there. It's down to two hundred. Five hundred were released in the previous administration and some in this administration. So, let's get this population of one hundred ninety-two sorted out. If many of them are of the kind that can be put before trial, either military commission or in our Article III courts, let's do it."
Powell on Bringing Terrorism Suspects to the United States for Trial:
"I have no problem with them being tried here in the United States. We have two million people in jail. They all have lawyers. They all went before the court of law and they all got hammered. We have got three hundred terrorists who have been put in jail not by a military commission but by a regular court system. And so I think we ought to remove this incentive that exists in the presence of Guantanamo to encourage people and to give radicals an opportunity to say, you see, this is what America is all about. They're all about torture and detention centers."
Powell on trying KSM in New York:
"I have no problem with him being tried in our federal system here in the United States. I would not have picked Downtown New York. I would have picked, I don't know, I don't want to single out anywhere, but I think I could have found a-- a-- military base or some facility far away from New York or a populated area where it would not become a circus."