June 26th, 2007
09:40 AM ET
9 years ago

Students press Bush about alleged torture of detainees

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


Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. John, NY NY

    Jesus also said "He who lives by the sword shall die by it" at the very moment where someone with a sword could have very well saved him from his own torture and death in a "just war."

    June 26, 2007 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  2. sonny c.

    Bubba: show me in the Four Gospels where Jesus did anything as violent or hateful as you claim he did. He did flip some tables of the $ guys at the Temple in Jerusalem but he forbade his followers to use violence when his captors came for him. Awaiting your response. Sonny

    June 26, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  3. A. Celentino, Lansing, MI

    First of all, Cheney has misused the vice-presidency into making it him co-president, and he doesn't feel he needs to be held accountable to anyoone. Therefore, never take what he or his spokesmen say as the truth. You can lie only so many times.

    June 26, 2007 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Bless those students for having the COURAGE to stand-up for what they believe and not be intimidated by Bush.

    Impressive...and they should be proud of what they did and how they felt that it had to be done.

    I don't know those kids and the media will never show their faces...but that was one of the most inspiring stories I ever heard about students.

    June 26, 2007 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Correction...the letter was signed by 50 students.

    Which I assume was ALL of them.

    Too bad the media didn't tell us how many student there were in total. I am going to assume all of them signed the letter.

    June 26, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. Blonde Geek, Raleigh, NC

    I can tell by the type of responses that most who write are against any type of penalization against these murduring terrorists. I am beginning to wonder if any of you are really "Americans" or "Internationalists". These murdering terrorists they put away are not the kind of people you want to live next door (or do you?). They would undoubtably torture you for your non-religious ways (great way to get your 15 minutes of fame). They torture and mass murder their own people in heinous ways. Now you want to give them rights when they have forsaken others rights. There is something illogical about your logic. Hitler and his minions should of been exterminated when the chance arose, what makes these people different. Besides your empathy for them and the chance to see them manupilate the media as they have already done.

    June 26, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  7. Glen, Grand Coulee, WA

    I believe it was some representative in Florida that first said, "If it will save one American Life, then red is for positive and black is for negative". People we are at war with terrorists who think nothing of killing women and children. Do you think they won't do the same to you if they have the chance? WAKE UP!!

    June 26, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  8. Ryan, New York, NY

    Tom,
    Most New Yorkers feel similarly. If you didn't notice, we voted against Bush and his methods in fighting terrorism in enormous numbers in 2004.

    To be honest, I'd think our voices would mean more to the rest of the country, seeing as how we were the ones attacked (and along with DC, have the most remaining targets), but instead it's people from Kansas and Idaho, states with no targets for terrorists to care about, whose ideas are being followed in the war on terror. I'd guess it's because we've gone through the healing process and tried to understand the motives of these people who destroyed part of our city and the lives of so many living in it, rather than just reacting to the event.

    Secondly, as I mentioned before with no response, how many of the Gitmo detainees did we just release? If they were so dangerous, why were they released? Could it have been that after water-boarding them and using whatever other torturuous techniques we've used (search Maher Arar and see what we did and where we captured him), we found that they weren't involved?

    Even with the number of terrorists that we've killed and imprisoned, the number has increased as a result of the US showing the world that we're no more humane than the people that we're fighting. We've gone past the point where our enemies were just a bunch of religious nutjobs and entered the realm where our enemies now include people who have a legitimate complaint with how US foreign policy is affecting them. To me, that's the opposite direction we should be going and just an invitation for more conflict.

    Need I even mention the lack of support that this behavior is creating in the international community. People sympathize and support those who are innocent victims, but they say it's your own fault when you're an aggressor.

    June 26, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  9. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    Fair enough Ryan, what do you suggest we do to combat a group of people whose stated mantra is to kill us, jews and anyone else that doesn't believe in what they believe?
    8 years of attempted diplomacy. got us what exactly?
    Do we sit around and wait for our ships, embassies and let's not forget the 1st WTC bombing to name a FEW, to happen again while doing next to nothing?
    This knucklehead messed up the planning and execution of the war, but I agreed with his going after Saddam and if the Germans, Russians and Chineese all were not paid off by the Oil for food program, their additional pressure on Saddam may have made this whole mess NOT happen.
    I laugh at all of the constant "Bush lied" posts on this site as when I posted many liberals saying exactly what Bush said BEFORE and AFTER 9-11 nobody even blinked, like it never happened.
    Bush is a idiot on many levels as he has disgraced the people that voted for him, but if "Mild" tactics save ONE American life, go for it.
    Though I respect your opinion, I disagree with it.

    June 26, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. Robert, Gainesville Florida

    [i]If these so call students want to stop violation, they should talk about our troops being torture first. Until you have been in the front line you have noting to talk about[/i]

    Oh, I get it. How many times have you been tortured, then? [/sarcasm]

    June 26, 2007 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  11. Ruth, Tebbetts, Missouri

    Ryan of NCY
    What's the difference between strapping explosives to one's chest vs.making them believe they're going
    to drown? The ones who strapped explosives to the journalist's chest will actually kill him, not just scare him!

    June 26, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  12. Robert, Gainesville FL

    I can tell by the type of responses that most who write are against any type of penalization against these murduring terrorists. I am beginning to wonder if any of you are really “Americans” or “Internationalists”. These murdering terrorists they put away are not the kind of people you want to live next door (or do you?).
    I'm actually more of an isolationist. But besides thinking that our country should respect ANYONE'S human rights, I also don't think we need to give our prisoner's friends in the middle east any more reasons to want to crash planes into our buildings.

    June 26, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  13. Mike in Dallas TX

    I wonder if The Decider felt a little bit intimidated, knowing that every last one of those kids was a lot smarter, and could probably do one hell of a lot better job than he has as president. It is really really sad when a group of bright kids has to come to the White House and explain something like Human Rights(using simple words) to our Far Rightwing, moronic President!

    June 26, 2007 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. Ryan, NYC, NY

    Ruth,
    That's not really true.

    I couldn't find more recent stats, but as of March 2005, 108 detainees had died in US custody since the beginning of the war on terror. Some of these were natural causes, some were a result of the mortar attack by insurgents on Abu Gharib, but at that time, 26 had been investigated as homicides involving abuse of prisoners. Also, I do realize that some were suicides, but I know that myself, I'd prefer death over being tortured for a few years.

    The man you're referring to was captured 3 months ago, yet is alive. Not one of the 15 journalists kidnapped in Gaza since 2004 has been killed. You can read more here – http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/06/24/bbcreporter.video/index.html.

    All of my hopes are that this man gets a safe return just like the other journalists who were captured in Gaza.

    I don't know how some of you can condemn the actions of the terrorists, yet find it permissible for us to do the same or similar in retaliation. I abhor the idea that my country would even do something similar to what these people do in our attempt to win.

    June 26, 2007 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  15. Fabio Escobar, Amherst NY

    Here's how this whole torture debate works:

    Democrat to Republican: "When will you stop torturing people?"

    Republican to Democrat: "When will you stop being soft on terrorists?"

    Both of them make stupid assumptions, and both of them miss the point entirely. That point is this: that tough interrogation techniques are sometimes necessary to elicit information from people, and that it is pretty damn hard to draw the line between tough techniques and torture.

    "Torture" is a word that has been hijacked by some who disapprove of the war on terror and wish to tarnish that effort. It's much like calling someone a racist these days. It doesn't have to be true to stick.

    June 26, 2007 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  16. Wayne Rose, Johnson City, TN

    My hat is off to the kids for standing up and asking the right questions. I must respond to a couple of resondents, however. Take this President at his word? You've got to be kidding. To put it very simply, in God we trust, everyone else explain yourself.

    June 26, 2007 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  17. Justin Kane, Hudson MA

    Hey Dr. Jack Ryan, us kids who "havn't lived long enough to understand geopolitics," some of us actually understand it better then most adults. Speaking for myself, I am much more informed and have a better understanding of what is going on then most of my teachers, who are supposedly the educated ones. Nothing makes kids more angry then a snob, stuck up adult who assumes our opinions are worth nothing.

    June 26, 2007 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  18. Ms. Rodriguez, Diamond Bar, CA

    Leadership of the future is looking good!

    June 27, 2007 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  19. forest hunter - BG, WA.

    "Posted By Blonde Geek, Raleigh, NC : June 26, 2007 3:30 pm"
    Posted By Tom – Dedham, Mass : June 26, 2007 1:41 pm
    Posted By Fabio Escobar, Amherst — NY : June 26, 2007 4:38 am
    Posted By Dr. Jack Ryan, Washington, DC : June 26, 2007 7:22 am
    Posted By Glen, Grand Coulee, WA : June 26, 2007 3:35 pm
    Posted By Ruth, Tebbetts, Missouri : June 26, 2007 4:36 pm
    Posted By Robert, Gainesville FL : June 26, 2007 4:36 pm
    The thing that all of these people have in common is that they *get it*.

    Justin Kane, Hudson MA: Age is unfortunately against you, but it's not your fault. Take your time in what you determine as facts. That perspective is not an *overnight* adventure.

    I didn't read anything that even comes close to being interpreted as "...our opinions are worth nothing.", from: “havn’t lived long enough to understand geopolitics,”. That's quite a leap, but relying on assumptions as facts such as the example you and Anonymous : June 26, 2007 3:05 pm just provided, are part of why confusion becomes accepted as fact, for those too willing to be unbalanced by a single facet of the topic in discussion.

    I am not surprised by your words/beliefs,"I am much more informed and have a better understanding of what is going on then most of my teachers,..." given the issues with another federally flawed system namely the Public School system, that wouldn't surprise me in the least. As a teacher and wrestling coach for over twenty years, I understand more than I think you can imagine but before this ranges too far off topic, I hope you'll continue to be attentive to cross-checking facts from various sources and lead by example, avoiding the name calling, belittling and assumptions based on things not established in fact.

    Few things provide perspective like the historical lessons played out in time. Naivety can be an asset or a detriment, depending on the various senses in the off/on position. Choose wisely, Justin.

    June 27, 2007 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  20. William Montes Jr. Ft. Lauderdale,Fl.

    I wish to offer my congratulations and
    deepest respect to those 50 high school
    graduates, who in these trouble times we live in,have grasped the meaning of the U.S.Constitution.That the american
    people should be so lucky to find
    elected officials with the common sense and courage of convictiun that these
    young Americans displayed to the tyrant
    whom we,ve called president going on 7
    years now.Shame on congress and those
    who will not stand as tall as these
    young people have.Kudos to their parents and teachers.

    June 28, 2007 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  21. Jane Hubbard, Tirana, Albania

    From the perspective of this U.S. citizen living in one of the "coalition of the willing" countries that cooperates in extraordinary rendition, the intelligent and articulate action of these US national high school scholars is the most encouraging things to come out of the U.S.A. in a decade. Thank you, young scholars, for giving me hope!

    June 28, 2007 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  22. Brian, San Francisco

    For a better all around story, with things like details in it, I recommend readingAmy Goodman's Article on Alternet.org.

    I'd like to point out that the kids are high school graduates, not students as this CNN article claims. Ed Henry's neglecting to mention that the "50 teenagers" who signed the petition were Presidential Scholars themselves is shameful and sloppy, if not deliberate. His wording lends you to believe that these are just some young, naive, kids who couldn't possibly know anything about politics because they haven't even fallen off of that turnip truck called "High School" yet.

    Whether or not I care about what these Presidential Scholars did and what Bush said becomes beside the point when all the information provided is delivered through a filter of poor wording and ommissions. In a nation with a truly free and competative press, this so-called "journalist" (a white house correspondant no less!) would be laughed out of their job.

    Shame on you, Ed.

    July 11, 2007 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
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