A new sound byte has been dripping from the mouths of every White House official--from President Bush in Washington, DC to Secretary of State Rice in Europe: we dont' talk about secret programs. Take a quick look at the following...
A new sound byte has been dripping from the mouths of every White House official--from President Bush in Washington, DC to Secretary of State Rice in Europe: we dont' talk about secret programs.
Take a quick look at the following exchange between a reporter and the President at the White House, today...
The following quote is from a press conference held, today, at the White House:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Does your administration have any plans to change the policy of renditioning and/or the detention centers alleged to be taking place in Europe?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Carl, first of all, I don't talk about secret programs, covert programs, covert activities. Part of a successful war on terror is for the United States of America to be able to conduct operations, all aimed to protect the American people, covertly.
However, I can tell you two things: one, that we abide by the law of the United States; we do not torture. And two, we will try to do everything we can to protect us within the law. We're facing an enemy that would like to hit America again, and the American people expect us to, within our laws, do everything we can to protect them. And that's exactly what the United States is doing. We do not render to countries that torture. That has been our policy, and that policy will remain the same.
It is pretty clear from these comments that the President has been given a script to repeat in case any questions about secret prisons and torture are posed to him.
But what should the reporter say in response?
They should ignore this remark from the President for one very simple reason: the secret prisons are not a secret anymore.
President Bush is playing a dangerous game with the American public and with the trust of our allies. By saying that he is not going to talk about a network of illegal secret prisons, he is saying that he is above public debate about the morality of torture and the ethics of exporting prisoners to foreign countries that are out of view of the American legal system.
But the only reason the reporter is asking a question about the 'secret' prisons is because they are no longer a secret.
The American people and the world all know that the Bush Administration created a network of illegal, secret torture prisons in Europe. And any journalist with self-respect will not wait for the President to give him or her permission to talk about them.
Journalists have a responsibility to bring any instance of a President breaking the law to the attention of the public--any instance. It is the responsibility of journalists in this country to guard against the White House breaking the law.
"How long will the White House stonewall the American public about secret prisons and torture being used illegally in our name?"
"When the whole world knows about the White House's secret prisons, why does the President pretend that this operation is still 'covert' and under wraps?"
"When will the President look the American public in the eye and tell the truth?"
Those are real questions that every journalist should be asking right now.
© 2005 Jeffrey Feldman