Lauer Scolds Bush: 'Amnesty International Says Secret Sites Against International Law'

Friday's NBC Nightly News previewed an exchange between President Bush and Matt Lauer in the Oval Office, part of a longer session which will air on Monday's Today show, in which Lauer cited Amnesty International as the authority to undermine Bush's assertion that secret prisons to hold al-Qaeda operatives are legal. When Lauer indicted Bush, painting Bush as guilty of some kind of misdeed -- “You admitted that there were these CIA secret facilities” -- Bush scoffed: “So what? Why is that not within the law?” Lauer then retorted: “The head of Amnesty International says secret sites are against international law.” Bush countered: “Most American people, if I said that we had who we think's the mastermind of the 9/11, they would say, 'Why don't you see if you can't get information out of him without torturing,' which is what we did.” (Brief transcript, and more from online, follow.)

The 25 second exchange, excerpted from Lauer's interview with Bush conducted Friday and set to air on Monday's Today, aired on the September 8 NBC Nightly News:
Matt Lauer: “You admitted that there were these CIA secret facilities. Okay?”

President Bush: “So what? Why is that not within the law?”

Matt Lauer: “The head of Amnesty International says secret sites are against international law.”

President Bush: “Well, we just agree to disagree with him. And plus, my job is to protect you. And most American people, if I said that we had who we think's the mastermind of the 9/11, they would say, 'Why don’t you see if you can’t get information out of him without torturing,' which is what we did.”

A MSNBC.com posting plugging the interview adds one more exchange:
Matt Lauer: “I don’t want to let this 'within the law issue' slip though. I mean, if, in fact, there was water boarding used with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and for the viewers, that’s basically when you strap someone to a board and you make them feel as if they’re going to drown by putting them underwater, if that was legal and within the law, why couldn’t you do it at Guantanamo? Why did you have to go to a secret location around the world?”

President Bush: “I’m not going to talk about techniques. And, I’m not going explain to the enemy what we’re doing. All I’m telling you is that you’ve asked me whether or not we’re doing things to protect the American people, and I want the American people to know we are doing so.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center