(ABC Radio interview with Sam Donaldson, ABC News)
Donaldson: Secretary Clarke, thanks for joining us today.
Clarke: I'm happy to do it. Thanks for having us.
Donaldson: Secretary Rumsfeld's assertion that a detainee may be tried and if acquitted still be held strikes some as flying in the face of our very system of justice. What did he have in mind?
Clarke: Actually it's really just common sense. Let's talk about the people we're discussing here. We are talking about people who have been involved in efforts and part of an organization that has made very clear their intent to harm and kill Americans, and it has been common practice for many many years in many many wars that you take custody of people on the battlefield. You certainly don't want them to be running free and able to go back and start fighting and killing and harming Americans again.
Donaldson: I think that's exactly right, Secretary Clarke. I mean I don't think anyone would argue with that. It's the part about charging someone with a crime and if they're acquitted still holding them.
Clarke: Well, let's --
Donaldson: Are you talking about a general charge of terrorism? Or is there a specific charge?
Clarke: One, you shouldn't generalize at all because it is very likely that the detainees will be treated differently. We have made it clear we have no desire to hold any large numbers of these people for any longer than we absolutely have to, so some of the detainees may go back to their country of origin. Some of the detainees may go through different legal systems. Some of the detainees may be charged with particular crimes and put through a military commission. And even if they were acquitted of something in a military commission it doesn't take away the fact that they were engaged in some sort of intent to harm and kill Americans. We took them in the course of this war. And we certainly wouldn't want them to go back and do what they were doing before. There may be other things we want to do with them.
And again, I just go to what has been common accepted practice in wars for a long, long time. That is you tend to hold the combatants until the end of the war or until you reach a point where you think they're no longer a threat to us.
Donaldson: Let me just get my thoughts around what you've said. So you say a particular crime, which does not exclude the possibility that they've committed other crimes and that's why you say they would still be held, because they're dangerous.
Clarke: Sure. It does not change the fact that they were captured during an armed conflict. They were captured during an effort to hurt us or kill Americans. So you would not want him to go back to his terrorist ways.
Donaldson: So why charge them at all? Just hold them, as you say, until the conflict is over.
Clarke: Well, the President has decided that certain people may be, it may be appropriate for them to go through a military commission. The crimes may be so heinous, they may be of such a level of leadership that it is appropriate for them to go through that, and that is one way we have of bringing these people to justice.
Donaldson: On another subject before I let you go, Secretary Clarke, I notice in the newspapers they're using such words as rebuke to characterize Secretary Rumsfeld's discussion of some commanders in their testimony about the ability of our forces to respond or whether our troops are tired or not. Did he mean it as a rebuke?
Clarke: I'll tell you, if I could ever figure out who these people are who write headlines I'd love to meet them because they have interesting ways of approaching things.
What the Secretary was talking about yesterday is the fact that everywhere around the world the men and women who are in uniform are forward leaning, their morale is very high, their eagerness and dedication to be a part of this effort, this global war on terrorism is just incredible, and that we have the organization and the resources and the capabilities to respond in any manner that the President wants us to respond. Anything he wants to do in the global war on terrorism going forward we will be capable of doing. And the Secretary just wanted to make sure that some comments of a few people up on Capitol Hill were not taken out of context.
Donaldson: So we should not say that General Ralston or Admiral Blair or General Kernan was rebuked.
Clarke: You know, like I said, if I could figure out where these headline writers come up with these words I'll be a happy person.
Donaldson: Secretary Clarke, thanks very much. It's always a pleasure to talk to you.
Clarke: Thank you. You, too. Bye Sam.
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