Transcript of Reporters Roundtable Discussion With Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey

WASHINGTON , Dec. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of a reporters roundtable discussion with Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey : 10:35 A.M. EST ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Good morning...

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think that the records of the Guantanamo detainees, in the large, reflect that they are not people who should be released into the United States .

QUESTION: But doesn't it make it hard for the U.S. to ask other countries to accept them if we're not willing to accept any of them ourselves?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: It may make it hard. There are techniques that can be used in foreign countries to keep these people in a situation that doesn't threaten the security either of this country or of their own.

QUESTION: General, if it came down to it, could probable members of Al Qaeda who are currently being housed in Gitmo, could the civil system, could the American court system, federal court system, deal with it? Or would you prefer now not to fight with them?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Before I got here, I wrote a column on the unsuitability of Article 3 courts to deal with terrorism cases in general for reasons that I outlined in that article. And I think it would be particularly difficult with high value detainees who, you know, who would have to see evidence and could use, make use of that, make use of the proceedings for their own purposes.

QUESTION: Judge, did you see any problems in the way that the Moussaoui case was brought to trial?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm not going to criticize --

QUESTION: Duration?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm not going to criticize that case.

QUESTION: But do you think that that case had a, the judges' decision, you think there was a problem the way that that case was pursued?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm not going to identify any particular problems with any particular case.

QUESTION: What is the right way to put the people on trial if Guantanamo is closed, though? Military commissions? The current system of courts martial? If you think Article 3 courts are unsuitable or some version yet to be discovered?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think that we've opted for military commissions for those who are charged with committing war crimes. As to others, their status is that, if they are found to be unlawful combatants, that is, people who do not fight according to a recognized chain of command, do not carry their arms openly, target civilians, they can be, according to the law, detained for the duration of the conflict. How do you determine that? It's what's going on now in habeas procedures.

QUESTION: Do you see any problem, though, with the commission system as it exists now, as the military has explained it, where somebody could be tried, convicted, sentenced to say, two years, confined, and at the end of that time, not be released, still be an enemy combatant and held for the rest of their lifetime? Is there anything that strikes you as unjust or unfair about that system as it is in place today?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The only current detainee who has been tried, gotten a short sentence, has been sent back to Yemen and that is Hamdan.

QUESTION: But the policy is in place?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The policy is in place. And if it were to happen that somebody who had, in fact, committed very serious acts, remained a very serious danger, got a short sentence, it would be suicidal to release that person.

QUESTION: Is that justice, though?


QUESTION: That is a hard one to explain.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think it was a very famous Justice of the Supreme Court who said that the Bill of Rights -- the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

QUESTION: Judge, there has been a lot of sniping in the last couple of months about backlogs at the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Do you feel like the next administration should revisit the way that office is structured, the numbers of people tasked to process applications and the like?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I know that that office has been processing applications as quickly as it can. How a future administration treats that office is up to it.

QUESTION: There has been some criticism though among people who are applying for clemency that they have to go -- almost have to go straight to the White House counsel's office because the DOJ process takes too long.