October 10th, 2007
04:01 PM ET
9 years ago

Carter: America tortures

Watch Wolf Blitzer's interview with former President Jimmy Carter.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday he is convinced the United States engages in torture that clearly breaches international law and told CNN President Bush creates his own definition of human rights to escape violating them.

"I don't think it. I know it, certainly." the former president told CNN's Wolf Blitzer when asked if he thinks the United States commits torture.

"Our country for the first time in my lifetime has abandoned the basic principle of human rights," Carter continued. "We've said that the Geneva Convention does not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, and we’ve said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an accusation of a crime to which they are accused."

Carter's comments come on the heels of a New York Times report that disclosed the existence of secret Justice Department documents supporting the use of "harsh interrogation techniques" including, according to the Times, "head-slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures."

Last week, the White House confirmed the existence of the documents though would not make them public. Responding to the report last Friday, Bush defended the techniques used and said, “This government does not torture people.”

Asked about the president's comments, Carter said, "That's not an accurate statement if you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored - certainly in the last 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated."

"But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don't violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate them," Carter added.

Responding to Carter's comments, a senior White House official said, "Our position is clear. We don't torture. It's just sad to hear a former president speak like that."

Watch the full interview with Carter tonight on The Situation Room, 7 p.m. ET. 

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- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. Mr. Marco, Mt. Prospect, IL

    Carter tortured the American people with his presidency. Not to mention his "torturous" analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
    This numbscull has lost all credibility.

    October 10, 2007 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  2. Ron, TX

    If it sounds like torture... and it looks like torture... and it feels like torture...

    I can't believe Hillary Clinton supports those same techniques.

    October 10, 2007 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  3. Matt, Manchester, CT

    Like I've heard and said before, it's interesting to see Carter swim against the tide of becoming more and more irrelevant. Maybe he's trying to create a legacy far more controversial than his dismal presidency?

    October 10, 2007 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. Fred Green

    I do not know what to say. CNN has no news to report. This is garbage from Carter. You need anything to publish here, please tell me. Why do you give importance to this discarded guy. Nobody looks at him here in Atlanta.He does not know anything on what is going on. You can ask him to shut up....

    October 10, 2007 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. mike smith reno, nv

    Osama Bin Laden loves this kind of foolish speculation by Jimmy Carter.

    He is enjoying reading Jimmy's comments in his cave in Afghanistan on his satellite hooked up internet connection and Osama is feeling uplifted by Jimmy Carter and thinking we are one step closer to demoralizing America.

    Carter's heart is in the right place he just doesn't think of the consequences of his words before opening his mouth.

    Perhaps Mr. Carter has the very common age related frontal lobe shrinkage of the brain that was described in the recent article entitled, "Why Grandpa says inapropriate things."

    October 10, 2007 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  6. Roger, Edna Bay, AK

    >Responding to Carter's comments, a senior White House official said, "Our position is clear. We don't torture. It's just sad to hear a former president speak like that."<

    Now somebody IS lying. I tend to believe President Carter. The Bush Administration has made it very clear to the world that they are willing to stretch the truth to achieve their goals. The current Administration is the most dangerous and un-American administration in the history of this country. As Americans, aren't we supposed to oppose the "bad guys"? Well fellow citizens, the Bush administration is the "bad guys".

    A president who bends the constitution and curtails our liberties to suit his own agenda is not a worthy American president – he is a traitor! Save our great nation before it's too late – Impeach Bush & Cheney!

    October 10, 2007 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. Sam, Nashville,TN

    Chris from Dallas if you believe everything the Government of the United States tells you, you are in serious denial. The Government lies to Americans everyday, it's part of their job description.

    October 10, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  8. Mary, Baltimore, MD

    The issue isn't Carter's record as a President. The issue is: the US is torturing prisoners in violation of international law.

    Bravo to Jimmy Carter for speaking the truth about this immoral and corrupt administration!

    October 10, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. Bob, Nervous, Insanity

    Why can't people understand that 'my way or the highway' doesn't work in the world like it does at home with children. The other nations of the world don't play in our backyards, and we can't require that they go home when the street lights come on at night. But, we can attempt to lead by example. I think some people were taught this in childhood as part of their upbringing. So, if our example is torture is alright, then I hope we can endure the torture that awaits American troops and citizens when they are captured. Sure these practices may help us thwart terrorism in the short time, but in the long run we are only hurting ourselves by using these means deemed by the president and his administration to be acceptable. We need to realize that we aren't always right, and our definitions aren't always read the same by the others we SHARE the world with. After all we can't all be American women. Right?

    October 10, 2007 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |

    Bob of Seattle,
    Why must we be in the business of making fear our modus operandi. We should be engendering mutual respect with our fellow citizens of the world. PRESIDENT CARTER is right on in his analysis of the pathological moronic President Bush. Torture should never, never be an option in our repertoire of interrogation methods. WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT OR AT LEAST WE ARE THOUGHT TO BE.
    9/11 happened because of our{BUSH} intel failure.

    October 10, 2007 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  11. Former US Army Officer, Kansas

    Does the United States of America torture prisoners? The answer, unfortunately is yes.

    Does the use of torture make this nation safer? The answer is no.

    Basically, it was learned a long time ago, that torture does "NOT" provide useful information that is useable, why is this you ask. Simply, an individual will tell you what ever "YOU" want to hear under torture. Does that mean that they tell you lies, no, does that mean they tell you the truth, no, they tell you what "YOU" want to hear.

    Information collected under these methods if is not good information nor is it collected in a timely manner to have tactical value. Straegic information can be gathered through other means that provide validation of the data.

    The United States over the course of it history has been a leader in the observance of the rules of war and the treaties protecting prisoners, one may ask why, some would say because candy ass liberals do not have the stomach to get the job done, I would have to tell you that you could not be further from the truth.

    What we have learned over the course of time is not only is the information obtained useless, but the laws and rules governing the treatment of prisoners plays a very important role in the protection of our service members. But you point out that the enemy does not follow these rules and I would have to say that is correct, however two wrongs have never made a right, nor does that attitude assist in holding world opinion in our favor.

    Under international accords and treaties that the United States is party to, it is a crime to torture prisoners, but this administration thinks it can get around these accords by saying we they don't apply because who ever is not a party to the accord, or, our definition of torture is, such and sucjh and we don't do that. Wheather the enemy had signed an accord is not pertanent to the situation, we have signed and we are bound to follow the rules. What we do today will effect our servicemen and women 30 years from now, that is why we have rules on treatment of prisoners.

    Is meaningful intelligence collected through torture, no and it never has been. Is this administration in violation of international law and treaties that have been signed and radified by this nation, yes. Are they putting our servicemen and women in unnecessary danger through their disregard of international laws and conventions, yes they are.

    Does this administration fool anyone with its denials of torture and its redefinitions of who is covered, who is not what is torture, what is not, who is given rights and who is not? Unfortuently, the answer is yes, but history is not fooled by such actions and if nothing else, history will have to judge the actions of this adminstration.

    Does anyone care, appartently not.

    October 10, 2007 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  12. Allen, Fairfax, VA

    Thank you Jimmy Carter! Every living President, including father Bush, has criticized the way W has been running this country and HIS war on Iraq. All other former Presidents have toed the line by not being too critical, but Jimmy has the guts to tell it like it is. The little man does have a say in what happens with our country, but it pales in comparison with those who have achieved great fame. They (like Carter)can truly influence the thinking of our wimpy Congress.

    October 10, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  13. Brad, Gainesville Florida

    Actually, Clinton was impeached...just wasn't removed.

    Carter was the worse president in the last 100 years. He words are weak and meaningless. In fact, 10 gas lines just got longer after he breathed those words.

    October 10, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  14. Denise, Utica, MI

    Carter's comments come on the heels of a New York Times report that disclosed the existence of secret Justice Department documents supporting the use of "harsh interrogation techniques" including, according to the Times, "head-slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures."

    Carter calls this torture? He really doesn't look the rest of the world and what real torture is. In China and Tabet were they take a person off the street and imprison them for years, while hanging them upside down, rape, flogging and dragging them behind cars. Where is Africa they rape and kill at will, in Iran where women are beaten, raped and stoned. In other countries they take innocent people and cut off body parts. If this law Carter is refering to is an international law, he might want to spend more time helping the UN uphold the law in these other countries first.

    October 10, 2007 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  15. Jeff, Marquette, MI

    In regards to previously posted comments, Mr. Carter is just the messenger so keep his credentials out of the message. In regards to the message... Wake up Americans! Mr. Bush's foreign policy is nothing but a great recruiting tool for future evil doers.

    October 10, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  16. Geoff MacPherson

    For a former president to publicly make these comments, whether true or not is disgraceful. Someone needs to shut this old man up. If he needs publicity this badly just give him another Noble Prize. The man disgusts me.

    October 10, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  17. Jim, Mount Prospect, Il

    Hey Bob from Indianapoils, he USED to be the worst president.

    October 10, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  18. Steve, Bushtown, USA

    If Jimmy Carter had done his job in dealing with Islamic Fundamentalism as the leader of the free world we wouldnt be in the position of having to take the broad steps we are as a society in trying to elicit information on the plans of these terrorists trying to destroy our society and western values. But he would rather Monday morning quarterback the real leaders who finally had the guts to stand up.

    October 10, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  19. Dave

    Why do people continue to use the term dictator to describe President Bush because they don't agree with his decisions? Check out Webster for the definition of dictator and give me just one legal and more importantly an intelligent example of how he has done anything that would fit the definition of dictator. It is really naive of the one writer who described Carter as a great President. Obviously that individual wasn't around during his administration. If you need any proof how weak of a President Carter was than just look how the American Military developed into the best in the World. Oh yes, I know that is why they torture people, not like AQ right? Just ask Daniel Pearl and the other innocent people who had their heads cut off. Guess Jimmy the Coward forgot about them. What a pathetic old man.

    October 10, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  20. therealist

    CNN tortures

    It's readers that is..., with constant bias political statements from liberal has-beens and movie stars. As if their opinion actually means something to real Amercians.

    October 10, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  21. Anthony Pierre, Toronto, ON Canada

    I just read the ticker on Pres. Carter's comments re: the use of torture on prisoners.

    We need some agressive journalism to clear up this business of whether or not torture is being condoned by the current administration. When the Administration spokepeople respond that "the US does not torture", someone needs to stand up and ask whether that is by the definition in the Geneva Convention or some other convenient definition of torture. Is it so difficult for reporters to ask hard questions these days? The administration needs it's toes held to the fire on this issue. Where is the fifth estate on this one?

    October 10, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  22. Dr Atomic

    It's not torture, it's cool fun! We don't torture prisoners, just have cool fun with them. See, it's all in the way you define it. And when Bush leaves office, we can have lots of cool fun having him investigated by a grand jury.

    October 10, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  23. A real conservative, Albany NY

    "America tortures to prevent terrorism.
    Problem? What problem??"

    Torture incites terrorism. Your giving up the rights that the constitution protects. Jimmy is off the mark many times but it's obvious he is correct in stating that the US utilizes torture. I'm ashamed to be an American and a Republican.

    October 10, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  24. The Professor Watkinsville, GA

    What a sad day for the US. Bush insists that we don't torture people, but our stated policy is that we do whatever we deem necessary up to the point of "organ failure" or "death."

    Now that's something we can all be proud of...


    October 10, 2007 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  25. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    I would rather endure water-boarding than return to the disasterous Presidency of Jimmy Carter!

    "Head-slapping, simulated drowning, frigid temperatures"… right… ask Daniel Pearl what he things. Oh wait, his head was sawed off by khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Or perhaps we should just employ the "nice" ways Saddam treated his enemies (wood chipper)?

    How about we just ask the bad guys nicely to tell us their plans? We'll give them lawyers, 3 square meals, health care, 8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep, climate-controlled cushy rooms, and religious devotion time.

    President Clinton gutting the military, imposing the "hands-off" approach to intelligence gathering, and the ACLU terrorist-coddling approach to interrogation IS the reason America will continue being targeted and attacked.

    Posted By Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca : October 10, 2007 2:09 pm

    Again John, totally correct.

    Nothing we do too gain information that may save all our lives (including you Democrats and Kumbya singers) is vicious at all. Mild at worst.

    You want to know what vicious is, ask Daniel Bergs parents or the four Black water employess who were burned alive, dragged through the streets and hung on bridges.

    Ask the soldiers about the rape rooms they uncovered or let's not forget the recent story that the MSM (of course) under-reported where our brave men and women uncovered torture rooms in Iraq with BLEEPING MANUALS ON HOW TO TORTURE U.S. SOLDIERS.

    The harshest of our methods has been wrongly taken off the table (waterboarding), but if you "people" believe hat sleep deprivation, barking dogs, loud music, yelling and head slapping is torture, you like senile, ineffective and gutless Carter are sadly mistaken.

    The head of the CIA and other CIA operatives are on record as saying these mild forms of torture have already WORKED TO SAVE LIVES AND STOP OTHER THREATS.

    October 10, 2007 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
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