Transcript of Conference Call With Senior Administration Officials on the Executive Order Interpreting Common Article Three

WASHINGTON, July 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being issued by the U.S. Department of Justice: WASHINGTON, DC 2:55 P.M. EDT MR. ROEHRKASSE: Thank you very much. Thank you for joining us...


WASHINGTON, July 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being issued by the U.S. Department of Justice:

WASHINGTON, DC

2:55 P.M. EDT

MR. ROEHRKASSE: Thank you very much. Thank you for joining us today. This is Brian Roehrkasse at the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs.

This afternoon the President signed an executive order that interprets for the United States Common Article Three, the Geneva Convention as authorized by the Military Commissions Act. The purpose of this call is to provide additional background information related to this executive order.

With me are Senior Administration Official One and Senior Administration Official Two. Any information on this call can be attributed to a senior administration official since this call will be on background. With that I would like to turn it over to our first senior administration official.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you. I will just briefly describe the executive order and what it does and put a little context into what the President has done today to provide a little background to it. And I'll try to be brief and then we will turn it over for questions. And I'm sure you have some and we'd be happy to take your questions.

This is the executive order that culminates the process that started with the Military Commissions Act last fall and these are the provisions of the act that were enacted by Congress in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan, the Hamdan case, which decided that Common Article Three of the Geneva Convention applies to our armed conflict with al Qaeda.

That raised questions that needed, in the President's estimation, resolution, questions about what some of the terms in Common Article Three mean and how they will be applied in this novel context of an armed consulate with international terrorist organizations. And that has particular import for the ability of the Central Intelligence Agency to continue forward with a very important program of detention and interrogation that was described by the President last September.

Congress gave the President the ability to do that in the Military Commissions Act by defining a list of specified and serious offenses, which would be war crimes -- those are the greatest breaches in violation of Common Article Three. And then with respect to the remaining meaning of Common Article Three Congress made it clear that the Detainee Treatment Act standard preventing cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as defined by reference to U.S. Constitutional standards would constitute a violation of Common Article Three. A breach of the Detainee Treatment Act standard would be a violation of Common Article Three.

And then in addition Congress gave the President -- expressly recognized that the President has authority on behalf of the United States to give authoritative interpretations of the meaning and applications of the Geneva Conventions including Common Article Three, and that he could do so through an executive order that would be published and that would be authoritative as a matter of law. And that's what this executive order does. It's an executive order that interprets the meaning and application of Common Article Three and specifically it determines how Common Article Three is going to be applied to a program of detention and interrogation operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

It's important to point out that as the executive order makes clear, we are talking -- when we're talking about al Qaeda detainees and those who are fighting on behalf of al Qaeda, that we're talking about unlawful enemy combatants. The standards of Common Article Three and the standards that are set forth in the executive order are not ones that apply to traditional prisoners of war or POWs who are entitled to more protective status under the Geneva Convention.

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