High school students urged the president in a letter to "stop violations of the human rights of detainees."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush got a little more than he bargained for when he invited high school students from the Presidential Scholars Class of 2007 to the White House for an event promoting reauthorization of his signature No Child Left Behind education reform law.
CNN has learned that a couple of the high school students privately gave the president a handwritten letter before the official event, signed by 50 teenagers, urging the commander-in-chief to "do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants."
The letter began, "We have been told that we represent the best and brightest of our nation. Therefore, we believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions. We do not want American to represent torture."
A senior administration official confirmed that the president received the letter from the students and responded that the U.S. does not torture terror detainees. "We respect human rights," the president told the students, according to the senior official.
The confrontation with the students occurred on the same day White House spokeswoman Dana Perino faced a barrage of questions from reporters about a Washington Post four-part series suggesting the vice president has pushed the envelope in the war on terror. "All that we have undertaken has been lawful," Perino said, insisting the U.S. has not tortured detainees.
- CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry