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McClellan: ‘I Could Not Say Honestly Today That This Administration Does Not Believe In Torture’

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"McClellan: ‘I Could Not Say Honestly Today That This Administration Does Not Believe In Torture’"

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In 2005, as Congress debated legislation to ban cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, then-White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan repeatedly asserted that the Bush administration “does not condone torture” and would “never authorize the use of torture.”

But in a podcast interview with ABC News’s Jake Tapper yesterday, McClellan disavowed his previous defenses of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies. “I would have never made those comments from the podium had I known exactly what was happening,” said McClellan.

He then told Tapper that because of “waterboarding and some other harsh interrogation methods” used by the administration, he “could not say honestly today that this administration does not believe in torture”:

Now, looking back on that, I hold a very different view when I know today that were engaged in waterboarding and some other harsh interrogation methods and I would have never made those comments from the podium had I known exactly what was happening in some of those settings. Whether or not it was illegal is a matter for other people to address, but I could not say honestly today that this administration does not believe in torture, does not engage in torture.

Listen here:

Earlier this month, after he had himself waterboarded, journalist Christopher Hitchens wrote, “believe me, it’s torture.” “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture,” said Hitchens.

Apparently, Scott McClellan agrees.

Transcript:

TAPPER: Looking back on it, obviously in the…I read the book and there, obviously, you felt very stung, personally. And that was apparent to anybody watching.

MCCLELLAN: Right.

TAPPER: The whole Valerie Plame affair and the fact that you were misled by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby about their role. But, beyond that, do you look back at things you said from the podium that just were not true? That you knew at the time were not true?

MCCLELLAN: At the time, no, ah, maybe, no because I believe what I said from the podium was sincere, even though some times looking back on it now it may have been misguided. But let me give you another example. Yes, I, to the initial part of your question, are there other things beyond that, beyond the Valerie Plame episode that I look back to. One would certainly be the whole issue of detainee policy and to a large extent, or almost to a full extent, I had to rely on other people within the White House to provide me with the information I needed for that. I did not sit there and participate in the policy making process for detainees. We’re only now learning the full truth of who was involved in that and what exactly occurred. But when I went out and said, “we do not torture,” that we adhere to our international treaties and so forth, I was relying on what information was being given to me. Now, looking back on that, I hold a very different view when I know today that were engaged in waterboarding and some other harsh interrogation methods and I would have never made those comments from the podium had I known exactly what was happening in some of those settings. Whether or not it was illegal is a matter for other people to address, but I could not say honestly today that this administration does not believe in torture, does not engage in torture. Now, people within the White House continue to believe that it doesn’t — that it’s not tantamount to torture. I just hold a different view today on that subject.

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