As part of NBC News’ coverage of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer talked with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office. In the interview on Friday, President Bush defends his use of secret CIA prisons to interrogate top terror suspects. He also says he would not talk about the interrogation techniques used at these sites, insisting they were necessary to protect the U.S. from future attacks. The full interview will air Monday morning during the “Today” show’s special 9/11 broadcast with Lauer reporting live from Ground Zero. Here’s an excerpt of his interview with Bush:
Matt Lauer: And yet you admitted that there were these CIA secret facilities. OK?
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 disagree with him. Plus, my job is to protect you. And most American people, if I said [to them] that we had who we think is the mastermind of the 9/11, they would say, “Why don’t you see if you can’t get information without torturing him,” which is what we did.
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.