Video: Gibbs defends W.H. terror policies

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    >>> of south africa .

    >>> the white house is pushing back against those who say its anti-terror policies are endangering the country. republican senator kitt bond has been one of the most vocal critics. yesterday he was on this show and went after the administration for its handling of would-be christmas day bomber umar abdulmutallab.

    >> i believe mirandising him was very bad. i want to see them change that. i believe they should never disclose information that the intelligence community said was highly sensitive. it was so sensitive they only briefed four members of the senate on monday. on tuesday the white house proudly announces that because they can't take the heat because republicans have criticized them.

    >> this morning press secretary robert gibbs responded on behalf of the white house . i asked him why other agencies weren't brought in to help the fbi with abdulmutallab's interrogation at the time.

    >> first of all, the most experienced interrogators -- among the most experienced interrogators we have in our government are those at the fbi . they are trained to be able to do this sort of thing. after abdulmutallab went in for medical treatment , other agencies obviously were brought in and consulted, and have been involved in this process.

    >> so they were -- so the cia was in there interrogating or consulted on the interrogation?

    >> the fbi interrogated the subject, disseminated intelligence throughout the community, and throughout this process other agencies in our government and intelligence agencies have helped fbi interrogators through these interrogations. but understand this, chuck. if this notion of whether he should be an enemy combatant or whether he should be tried in a civilian court, if that's the crux of the argument based on what you said is their number one argument, which i'm not necessarily sure that's what they've articulated. but if that's their number one argument, the defense department , the intelligence community , and the fbi all came to an agreement that the way he was being interrogated, and what has now led to his cooperation, was the path that we should go down. what we have here --

    >> robert , wait.

    >> but hold on for a second. we have listened to politicians in congress describe how they think is best to interrogate somebody who tried to blow up an airplane that landed in detroit. i think what's better and what i think would make the american people feel safer is if the people who are trained to interrogate, law enforcement professionals, people with decades of counterterrorism experience, are the ones who are doing this, not politicians in washington.

    >> fair enough. fair enough, robert . but to that end, did you lose an opportunity to interrogate by mirandising too soon? this was not a product of reflection that went all the way to the top.

    >> absolutely not.

    >> how can you say that? how can you say that you have lost no valuable intelligence when a period elapses between the day or so after the bombing and five weeks before he renews his cooperation?

    >> no, no. savannah, he didn't just stop talking because he got mirandized. he stopped talking because he was trained to stop talking.

    >> that's true.

    >> just put -- no, no. let's not simplify this. just because you make somebody an enemy combatant doesn't make them talk.

    >> wait a minute, wait a minute, robert .

    >> no, no, no.

    >> i want to make the viewers familiar with the procedures.

    >> take the case of jose padilla .

    >> if you don't mirandise somebody, investigators cannot go back to him and get him to talk. they cannot cajole him or persuade him. if he's an enemy combatant , they have the ability to go back and talk.

    >> you're greatly simplifying the process. if someone isn't going to talk, it doesn't matter if they're going to be read their miranda rights . jose padilla -- we've known for more than eight years that richard reid is a british citizen . jose padilla was made an enemy combatant so we could get him to talk. guess what happened when we made him an enemy combatant ? he didn't talk. he did talk when he was transferred back into a civilian court. what has been done was, this procedure was followed. the fbi protocols and procedures were followed. agencies were consulted about how to get information and intelligence from this individual. and that's what's happened. what you're seeing is a series of politicians -- you've seen a series of -- the protocol that was established at the end of the last administration about how to deal with suspects in the fbi , which again was agreed upon by all these agencies, was the protocol that was followed. this wasn't some sort of surprise. but again, what we have here are politicians who have decided eight years after they agreed that everything that was done right on richard reid somehow is now all done wrong because it is a different president, that's not law enforcement . that's politics, guys.

    >> but then i'm confused by this. both the president, robert mueller in testimony, john brennan on "meet the press," all seemed to hint, well, the next time maybe we won't mirandise so soon. all of them have hinted over the last 72 hours . so is that not a tacit acknowledgement that maybe you guys are changing your procedure on this?

    >> chuck, what the president asked everyone to do january 5th in the situation room was evaluate everything that happened in this process. we're not stubborn enough to think that everything we do on every occasion is right. okay? the military conducts after-action reports after a military exercise , or a military procedure. that's the same thing that is happening here and now. and understand this, chuck. the next time something happens, it's probably not going to be exactly as it happened this time. just like what happened in detroit wasn't exactly what had happened with richard reid or in new york.

    >> but it does sound like the government is concerned now looking back that you mirandized too soon.

    >> that's not true.

    >> robert , let's move on to this issue of khalid shaikh mohammed . would you acknowledge that there is a great amount of unpredictability in the civilian system ? many times you have raised this issue of moussaoui . the moussaoui case who was tried in the civilian system . as you are well aware, the government's sengsly lost that case. the only issue at trial was whether he should get the death penalty and the jury spared him. how can you guarantee that khalid shaikh mohammed will -- there won't be something similar happening in that case? you can't guarantee the outcome there.

    >> let's understand, let's not oversimplify this, savannah. let's understand for the american people that moussaoui sits in a prison and will sit in a prison for the rest of his life. as will richard reid for the rest of his life. there's an overwhelming case against khalid shaikh mohammed . there's an overwhelming case against his co-conspirators. civilian courts, as has been recognized by both the bush administration and the obama administration, have a fantastic record of getting convictions and bringing about justice.

    >> fair enough. but for example, in civilian court a defense lawyer could easily bring a motion at the beginning of the case and say there has been outrageous government conduct here, this guy was waterboarded 183 times, and you can't stop a federal judge from just throwing that case out. are you prepared for that contingency?

    >> i don't think that's what's going to happen, savannah. i'm sure that the defense counsel with make any series of motions. but understand this. the american people are not scared of bringing justice through the american justice system. i think that's what's going to happen in this case. i said on a news show a few weeks ago, i'm sure the lawyers didn't really like it, i think khalid shaikh mohammed will meet his maker at the end of this process.

    >> i was just going to say, both you and the president said that to me, actually, in china in an interview. and, you know, what does that say -- do you worry that you somehow have kangaroo courted up our whole justice system ?

    >> how can you hold up the whole american justice system in the model of fairness and impartiality when you and the president himself have guaranteed the outcome?

    >> i haven't guaranteed the outcome. i've said here's what i believe the outcome will be based on the overwhelming evidence in the case, based on the fact that he's admitted that he did all this. i think the murder of 3,000 people on american soil is going to garner the death penalty . i think khalid shaikh mohammed and his co-conspirators will meet their maker because of a justice system that works, an overwhelming amount of evidence to convict, and the likelihood that, upon that conviction, the death penalty will be brought for the murder of 3,000 people. i think that's very easy to see.

    >> one final question. you're losing the politics of this issue in civilian trials. you've seen the polls. i've seen the polls. the criticism i've seen on the left on this issue of you guys is, you're not politically selling this well enough. what can you do better? do you accept that criticism that you're not doing a good job selling this policy?

    >> well, look. i accept the criticism that this is a very complex issue and it's a difficult one for the american people to weigh through. look, i understand that. if you look at the same polling though, chuck, you see that a good majority of the country supports the president's response to terrorism. i think what we have to do is take in to account the security and the logistical concerns of a place like new york city . but i will tell you this. all of your viewers should read what the judge in the richard reid case said viewers should read what the judge in the richard reid case said to richard reid . he basically said to him, look, sir. you're nothing big. you're not a big man. you're not a tall man. you're just a terrorist thug. and you're going to jail for the rest of your life. and you're going to do it because all of the world can see the american justice system bring that penalty down on you.

    >> all right. white house press secretary robert gibbs , thank you so much for your time

MSNBC
TRANSCRIPT

On Thursday, The Daily Rundown's Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd interview White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the Obama administration's anti-terror policies.

Below is the complete transcript.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, ANCHOR, THE RUNDOWN: The White House is pushing back against those who say its anti-terror policies are endangering the country. Republican Senator Kit Bond has been one of the most vocal critics.  Yesterday he was on this show and went after the administration for its handling of would-be Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab. 

SEN. KIT BOND (R-Mo.):  I believe Mirandizing him was very bad.  I want to see them change that.  I believe they should never disclose information that the intelligence community said was highly sensitive.  It was so sensitive they only briefed four members of the Senate on Monday.  On Tuesday the White House proudly announces it, because they can't take the heat because Republicans have criticized them. 

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE RUNDOWN: This morning Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded on behalf of the White House. I asked him why other agencies weren't brought in to help the FBI with Abdulmutallab's interrogation at the time. 

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First of all, the most experienced interrogators — among the most experienced interrogators we have in our government are those at the FBI.  They are trained to be able to do this sort of thing. After Abdulmutallab went in for medical treatment, other agencies obviously were brought in and consulted—a

TODD: OK, consulted? 

GIBBS: And have been involved in this process.

TODD: So they were — so the CIA was in there interrogating or consulted on the interrogation?

GIBBS: The FBI interrogated the subject, disseminated intelligence throughout the community, and throughout this process other agencies in our government and intelligence agencies have helped FBI interrogators through these interrogations. 

GUTHRIE: Robert, would you say—

GIBBS: But understand this, Chuck. If this notion of whether he should be an enemy combatant or whether he should be tried in a civilian court, if that's the crux of the argument based on what you said is their number one argument, which I'm not necessarily sure that's what they've articulated. But if that's their number one argument, the Defense Department, the intelligence community, and the FBI all came to an agreement that the way he was being interrogated, and what has now led to his cooperation, was the path that we should go down. What we have here —

GUTHRIE: Robert, wait, let’s talk about this for a second. 

GIBBS: But hold on for a second. 

         
GUTHRIE:  Wait.

GIBBS: But hold on, for a second. We have listened to politicians in Congress describe how they think is best to interrogate somebody who tried to blow up an airplane that landed in Detroit. I think what's better and what I think would make the American people feel safer is if the people that are trained to interrogate, law enforcement professionals, people with decades of counterterrorism experience, are the ones who are doing this, not politicians in Washington. 

GUTHRIE: Fair enough. Fair enough, Robert. But to that end, did you lose an opportunity to interrogate by Mirandizing too soon? This was not a product of reflection that went all the way to the top. 

GIBBS: Absolutely not. 

GUTHRIE: How can you say that? How can you say that you have lost no valuable intelligence when a period elapses between the day or so after the bombing and five weeks before he renews his cooperation?

GIBBS: No, no. Savannah, he didn't just stop talking because he got Mirandized. He stopped talking because he was trained to stop talking. 

GUTHRIE: That's true. 

GIBBS: Just because you put — no, no.  Let's not simplify this. Just because you make somebody an enemy combatant doesn't make them talk. Take the case of—

GUTHRIE:  Wait a minute, wait a minute, Robert. 

GIBBS: No, no, no. 

GUTHRIE: I want to make the viewers familiar with the procedures. 

GIBBS: Take the case of Jose Padilla. 

GUTHRIE: If you don't Mirandize somebody, investigators cannot go again to him and try to get him to talk. They cannot persuade him, cajole him, convince him.  If he's just an enemy combatant, they do have the opportunity to go back immediately and try to get him to talk. 

GIBBS: Savannah, you're greatly oversimplifying the process. If someone isn't going to talk, it doesn't matter if they're going to be read their Miranda rights or not.  Let me use the case of Jose Padilla. This is the case that Newt Gingrich famously mixed up just a few nights ago.

First he said Richard Reid was Mirandized because he was an American citizen. We have known for more than eight years that Richard Reid is a British citizen. He said he meant, Jose Padilla.  Jose Padilla was made an enemy combatant, so that we could get him to talk. Guess what happened when we made him an enemy combatant? He didn't talk. He did talk when he was transferred back into a civilian court. 

What has been done was, this procedure was followed. The FBI protocols and procedures were followed. Agencies were consulted about how to get information and intelligence from this individual. And that's what's happened. 

GUTHRIE: But Robert, agents on the ground made that decision with no consultation -

GIBBS: What you're seeing is a series of politicians -

GUTHRIE:  — with the FBI director.

GIBBS: — you've seen a series of - no, no, no. The protocol that was established at the end of the last administration about how to deal with suspects in the FBI, which again was agreed upon by all these agencies, was the protocol that was followed. This wasn't some sort of surprise. But again, what we have here are politicians who have decided eight years after they agreed that everything that was done right on Richard Reid somehow is now all done wrong because it is a different president, that's not law enforcement. 

GIBBS: That's politics, guys. 

TODD: But then I'm confused by this. Both the president, Robert Mueller in testimony, John Brennan on "Meet The Press," all seemed to hint, well, the next time maybe we won't Mirandize so soon. All of them have hinted over the last 72 hours.  So is that not a tacit acknowledgement that maybe you guys are changing your procedure on this?

GIBBS: Chuck, what the president asked everyone to do January 5th in the situation room was evaluate everything that happened in this process. We're not stubborn enough to think that everything we do on every occasion is right. OK?  The military conducts after-action reports, after a military exercise, or a military procedure. That's the same thing that is happening here and now. And understand this, Chuck.  The next time something happens, it's probably not going to be exactly as it happened this time. Just like what happened in Detroit wasn't exactly what had happened with Richard Reid or in New York. 

TODD: But it does sound like the government is concerned now looking back that you Mirandized too soon. 

GIBBS: That's not true. 

GUTHRIE: Robert, let's move on to this issue of civilian trails for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.  Would you acknowledge that there is a great amount of unpredictability in the civilian system? 

GIBBS: No.

GUTHRIE: Many times you have raised this issue of Moussaoui. The Moussaoui case who was tried in the civilian system. As you are well aware, the government essentially lost that case.  The only issue at trial was whether he should get the death penalty, and the jury spared him.  How can you guarantee that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will — there won't be something similar happening in that case? You can't guarantee the outcome there. 

GIBBS: Let's understand, let's not oversimplify this, Savannah. Let's understand for the American people that Moussaoui sits in a prison and will sit in a prison for the rest of his life. 

GUTHRIE: That’s correct.

GIBBS: As will Richard Reid for the rest of his life. There's an overwhelming case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. There's an overwhelming case against his co-conspirators. Civilian courts, as has been recognized by both the Bush administration and the Obama administration, have a fantastic record of getting convictions and bringing about justice. 

GUTHRIE: Fair enough. But for example, in civilian court a defense lawyer could easily bring a motion at the beginning of the case and say there has been outrageous government conduct here, this guy was water boarded 183 times, and you can't stop a federal judge from just throwing that case out. Are you prepared for that contingency?

GIBBS: I don't think that's what's going to happen, Savannah. I'm sure that the defense counsel with make any series of motions.  But understand this. The American people are not scared of bringing justice through the American justice system. I think that's what's going to happen in this case.  I said on a news show a few weeks ago, I'm sure the lawyers didn't really like it, I think Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will meet his maker at the end of this process. He will be executed.

GUTHRIE:  Well, let me ask you —

TODD: I was just going to say, both you and the president said that to me, actually, in China in an interview. And, you know, what does that say — do you worry that you somehow have kangaroo courted up our own justice system?

GUTHRIE: Yes, how can you hold up the whole American justice system as a model of fairness and impartiality —

TODD: And guarantee the outcome?

GUTHRIE: a— when you and the president himself have guaranteed the outcome?

GIBBS: I haven't guaranteed the outcome. I'm saying the outcome — here is what I believe the outcome is going to be based on the overwhelming evidence in the case, based on the fact that he's admitted that he did all this. I think the murder of 3,000 people on American soil is going to garner the death penalty. I think Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators will meet their maker because of a justice system that works, an overwhelming amount of evidence to convict, and the likelihood that, upon that conviction, the death penalty will be brought for the murder of 3,000 people. I think that's very easy to see. 

TODD: One final question. You're losing the politics of this issue in civilian trials. You've seen the polls. I've seen the polls. The criticism I've seen on the Left on this issue of you guys is, you're not politically selling this well enough  What can you do better? Do you accept that criticism that you're not doing a good job selling this policy?

GIBBS: Well, look. I accept the criticism that this is a very complex issue and it's a difficult one for the American people to weigh through  Look, I understand that. If you look at the same polling though, Chuck, you see that a good majority of the country supports the president's response to terrorism. 

I think what we have to do is take in to account the security and the logistical concerns of a place like New York City. But I will tell you this. All of your viewers should read what the judge in the Richard Reid case said to Richard Reid. He basically said to him, look, sir. You're nothing big  You're not a big man. You're not a tall man. You're just a terrorist thug  And you're going to jail for the rest of your life  And you're going to do it because all of the world can see the American justice system bring that penalty down on you. 

GUTHRIE:  All right.  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, thank you so much for your time this morning. 

GIBBS: Thanks, guys. 

TODD: Thank you, sir. 

The Daily Rundown airs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. ET to 10 a.m. ET on msnbc.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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