For immediate release
September 20, 2006
Contact:
Emily Lenzner, NPR
 | 

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON DISCUSSES VISION FOR U.S. TORTURE POLICY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF ENGAGEMENT IN IRAN ON NPR’S MORNING EDITION

INTERVIEW AIRS TOMORROW MORNING, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

TRANSCRIBED EXCERPTS BELOW; AUDIO TO BE AVAILABLE AT WWW.NPR.ORG AFTER 10:00AM ET


Washington, D.C.; September 20, 2006 – Former President Bill Clinton, in an interview with Steve Inskeep to air on NPR’s Morning Edition tomorrow morning, outlines his vision for how the U.S. should interrogate terror suspects while discussing the importance of adhering to and honoring the Geneva Conventions. He also discusses President Bush’s current approach to Iran, stressing the importance of engagement.

Transcribed excerpts of the interview are below. All excerpts must be credited to NPR's Morning Edition. The interview airs tomorrow morning, Thursday, September 21. Local stations’ air time of the program is available at www.npr.org/stations. Audio of the interview will be available at www.NPR.org after 10:00am (ET).

President Clinton on the Geneva Conventions: “And believe me, I’ve never discussed this with anybody before. You and I are having the first conversation I’ve ever had, but I believe on balance we should strictly adhere to the Geneva Conventions, and we should honor it, and when we violate it we should be prepared to be held accountable and ask people what would you have done under those circumstances. … But I think you go around passing laws that legitimize a violation of the Geneva Convention, and institutionalize what happened at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, ah we’re going to be in real trouble. It’ll hurt America, it won’t help us in our attempts to, to win the people that we’re trying to win over in these hot spots in the world and it will make our own soldiers far more vulnerable to being abused if they are captured.”

When asked if it’s sometimes necessary to coerce or torture people in order to protect national security, President Clinton said, “I think as a policy, it’s an error. I think that the Geneva Conventions are there for a reason. I think that number one it’s consistent with our values. Number two, it’s consistent with our interests. There have been repeated examples where a pattern policy of torture produces – sometimes it will get you something that you don’t know that’s worthwhile – but more often than not it just gets people to lie to tell you what you want to hear to keep you from beating the living daylights out of them. And when you do it you run the risk that your own people if captured will be tortured in return.”

President Clinton added: “I think it’s important to remember that there’s a reason that the entire military apparatus is opposed to torture. They know that it gets you bad information, destroys your country’s legacy, undermines our attempts for example to win the hearts and minds of people in a place like Iraq and makes our own soldiers vulnerable to torture.”

On whether the President can have the option to make exceptions to the rules, President Clinton said, “Look if the President needed the option there’s all kinds of things they could do, if that’s really what they wanted, if they wanted an option. … If they really believe that that scenario is likely to occur then let them come forward with an alternative proposal, which allows the intelligence services of the country to come to the president for a finding which then could be reviewable even on a post-facto basis by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In other words, we have a system of laws here where nobody should be above the law, and you don’t need blanket advance approval.”

When asked if he approves of President Bush’s approach to Iran and its nuclear program, President Clinton said, “I strongly approve of his outreach to the Iranian people.”

When asked to clarify if he thinks it’s smart to not talk to Iran, President Clinton said, “No, I didn’t say that. I said it’s smart to say what our conditions for normalized relations would be. …but if you have a country where you could be moving toward a severe economic or other kind of conflict, it seems to me that all other alternatives ought to be exhausted. So I think we should be talking to them in some way or another we should be negotiating in some way or another to see if there are any possibilities. Because I still believe that based on all my Iranian friends in America what they say is that the vast majority of Iranian citizens want to have good relationships with the United States and the West and do not want to be at odds. But they all believe basically that if any other country has a right to nuclear power, they do too, so we have to work through that and I, I hope we can do it in a peaceful way.”