Former White House Press Secretary Changes His Tune on Torture

What a difference a few years makes.

Scott McClellan Then:

Q Is the President comfortable with Gonzales’ role in developing torture memos, approving torture policies?

MR. McCLELLAN: Approving torture policies?

Q Over the last couple of years.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know what you mean by torture policies — because the President — the policy of the administration has been very clear from the beginning that we adhere to our laws and our treaty obligations. That’s the policy that the President set and that’s the policy he expects to be followed. And he made it very clear, previously, as well, that we do not condone torture and he would never authorize the use of torture. So I want to correct that characterization of any misperception that might be there.

Scott McClellan Now:

” . . . . .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 [information on detainee treatment]. 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’s not tantamount to torture. I just hold a different view today on that subject.”

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Published on July 9, 2008

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