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NATO Chief Says Rice Cleared the Air on Detainees

08 December 2005

U.S. secretary of state says intelligence needed to thwart terrorist attacks

By Rebecca Ford Mitchell
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, praising NATO’s role as a trans-Atlantic forum for political dialogue, said there was a serious discussion on questions concerning the war on terrorism and detainee policy during the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting December 8 in Brussels, Belgium.

During a December 8 press conference following the NATO ministerial in Brussels, Rice said she talked with her European counterparts about “what American policy really is, what it intends to do, how we intend to live up to our international obligation and U.S. law.”

The discussion, she said, focused on the dilemma of nations that both respect the rule of law and are obligated to protect their citizens when faced with an enemy that deliberately targets innocent persons.

“Intelligence is the only way you can prevent an attack,” the secretary said, adding that the gathering and use of intelligence often is misunderstood because it is, by its very nature, not a transparent process.

“We have to do everything that we can to protect our citizens in a lawful manner.  But we have to use every tool at our disposal in a lawful manner to do precisely that,” she said.

The secretary reaffirmed that the United States “does not engage in torture, doesn’t condone it, doesn’t expect its employees to engage in it.”

She acknowledged the possibility that those policies might be abused.  “Just because you are a democracy, it doesn’t mean that you’re perfect,” she said. But she did promise that allegations of abuses will be investigated and anyone found responsible will be punished.

Rice also said that she gave the ministers assurances that the United States has “not used airports or airspace for the purpose of transferring people, detainees, to places where we believe that they are going to be tortured.”

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, in a separate press conference, said the discussion was good and that Rice had “cleared the air” on the controversy.

“You will not see this discussion continue in the NATO framework, because it is not a NATO issue as such.  We have our own detention policy,” he added.

Rice highlighted NATO’s decision, taken in partnership with the elected Afghan government, to expand the alliance’s presence in Afghanistan as “one of the most important outcomes of this ministerial.”  (See related article.)

De Hoop Scheffer said that the larger NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) “will bring peace to more people in Afghanistan who have suffered terribly,” and ISAF “will help ensure that terrorism cannot take hold once again in this country and use it as a base from which to threaten the world, as it was under the rule of the Taliban.”

Both Rice and de Hoop Scheffer praised NATO’s recent accomplishments in areas outside its traditional boundaries including security training missions in Iraq, the airlift for African Union security forces in Darfur and humanitarian earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan.

The ministers agreed to hold a NATO summit in Latvia at the end of 2006 and another in the spring of 2008. (See related article.)

A transcript of Rice’s remarks is available on the State Department Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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