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...

QUESTION: Hello. I wonder if you can tell me, you had mentioned several times the Army Field Manual. It says very specifically what you cannot do, and I wondered if you could talk a little bit even in general terms about how these guidelines are different from what it says in the Army Field Manual. Does this go beyond it? Does it specify what you can do or does it specify -- does it incorporate the things you can't do from the Army Field Manual?

And secondly the Senate Intelligence Committee last spring said that it wanted to see the actual legal opinion and the review that you folks had done and I wonder how you're going to respond to that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I'll take the second question first. General Hayden at the CIA and the administration will be fully briefing and actually have been fully briefing the intelligence committee on the program that this executive order addresses, and so there will be full briefings of the intelligence committees. I'm not going to go into detail about exactly what that might include, but certainly they will be briefed on the legal basis as well as the particulars.

As to the first question, I think it's a very important question. This document and these standards are wholly separate from the Army Field Manual, and they really have a different approach and a different structure. It's appropriate in the Army field manual to list and specify precisely interrogation practices that are permitted. So all the interrogation practices that are permitted in the Department of Defense for use with detainees who are in the control or custody of the Department of Defense are specified in Army Field Manual. And it's by policy members of the military are not -- or anyone interrogating persons held in the custody or control of Department of Defense are not allowed to go beyond those clearly specified practices.

Moreover it also reinforces that by specifying by policy and directives clear prohibitions on what kinds of practices are not allowed, and in fact, in some respects as you note, with great specificity. For a program that remains a classified program of secret detention and interrogation for these, the most dangerous terrorists with vital intelligence, it's determined that it's not consistent with the intelligence value of the program to publicize for those terrorists what techniques are approved from the program and what specific techniques are prohibited for the program.

So the approach or the structure that this order takes is different from the Army Field Manual. It specifies a list of enumerated requirements, both substantive and procedural that need to be met and if all of them -- requires that all of them be satisfied. If all of them are satisfied then the President is determining that the program comply with the Geneva Common Article Three standard.

The other thing I'd say is that -- well, it does list in there some examples, some red lines which I think we can all agree are beyond the pale as some examples of that egregious conduct of personal abuse that's not allowed under the basic provisions of Common Article Three.

The last thing I say is just to underscore what I said earlier. The Army Field Manual is not intended to define that baseline standard of Common Article Three. It is intended to give very clear rules of the road for those tens of thousands of members of the military around the world who may come in contact with detainees. And those may be young members of the Armed Forces who do not have years of experience. They may not have extensive training. They may not have a lot of oversight, and therefore it's appropriate in that context to have very protective standards that are very clear and go over and above what Common Article Three would require.

Most of the standards that are addressed in the Army Field Manual, almost all, are actually intended to be appropriate for use with traditional prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up? One thing that is not mentioned here is access -- ICRC access an ability to contact family members. Is that something that you feel is not part of Common Article Three?