FRONTLINE| Secrets, Politics and Torture | TRANSCRIPT:5/19/15 FRONTLINE | PBS

Published May 21, 2015 by wallacedarwin


PHILIP ZELIKOW:Secretary Rice had long had her doubts about the program and was now really quite uneasy about it.

NARRATOR: With congressional and public pressure mounting, the president had to make a decision.

JANE MAYER: Finally, there’s a dramatic meeting that takes place inside the Roosevelt Room, where everybody’s sitting around the table, except for two members of the cabinet who are on television screens.

JOHN RIZZO: Secretary Rumsfeld and the vice president— they appeared, each one of them, one on one large screen at one end of the table, the other on a large screen on the other end of the table.

NARRATOR: As he polled his advisers, there was near unanimous agreement with Rice’s position.

JOHN RIZZO: There was no one who objected until the voice on the screen coming from vice president, a loud, “No. I vote no.” And for a brief instant, everyone in the room, including the president stared up at the— at his image on the screen.

PETER BAKER: Finally, Rice responds, and she pulls really what’s her trump card with the president. She says, “Mr. President, don’t let this be your legacy. You don’t want to be known”— in effect, what she’s saying is, as the president of torture.

NARRATOR: It looked like Rice had won the argument. They scheduled a major address by the president.

NEWSCASTER: It was a dramatic event, the president speaking to an audience of invited guests in the East Room.

NEWSCASTER: The president’s speech today was heavily promoted by the White House. In the audience, the vice president, members—

NARRATOR: As his government gathered, Rice believed Bush would reject Cheney’s advice.

JANE MAYER: Many people who wanted to see this program end think it’s going to be a speech that finally admits that they need to turn the corner.

NARRATOR: But the speech would be a denial that the CIA had done anything wrong.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world, the United States does not torture. It’s against our laws and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it.

NARRATOR: And the president made an argument for why the program was necessary.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH:Questioning the detainees in this program has given us information that has saved innocent lives by helping us stop new attacks.

GREG MILLER: It’s not a speech in which he’s saying, “This is something we did after 9/11 we now regret, we never should have done it.” It’s a speech that’s saying “We got really valuable stuff as a result.”

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH:And soon he began to provide information on key al Qaeda operatives—

NARRATOR: Without Rice’s knowledge, the president’s speech writers had been briefed by the CIA about what they said was the program’s effectiveness.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH:—including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th—

PETER BAKER: It turned out to be a much more of a robust defense of what they had done with the assertion, in fact, that these interrogation techniques had actually worked.

NARRATOR: And the president demanded that Congress legalize the program.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH:The need for this legislation is urgent. We need to ensure that those questioning terrorists can continue to do everything within the limits of the law to get information that can save American lives.

NARRATOR: Without revealing the graphic details of the program, the administration would convince the Republican Congress to allow it to continue.

And there was something else.

JANE MAYER: One small and little-noticed aspect of this piece of legislation was it includes immunity for anybody at the CIA that might have worked in this program. And not just at the CIA, it turns out. It’s going to give immunity to anybody who had anything to do with this program, right on up to the vice president.

NEWSCASTER: Bush has signed into law one of the most controversial acts of his time in the White House—

NEWSCASTER: —the bill becomes law with the president’s signature—

NARRATOR: It seemed like the controversy was finally over. But then, one year later, in 2007—

MARK MAZZETTI: We found out that the agency had this documentary footage of the early interrogations and they had actually destroyed that evidence.

NEWSCASTER: First we learned today that the CIA videotaped the interrogation—

NEWSCASTER: One of the tapes is believed to have shown CIA agents waterboarding—

NEWSCASTER: The tapes were destroyed two years ago on the orders of a top CIA official.

NARRATOR: John Rizzo’s secret was out.



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