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Homeland Security

06 December 2005

U.S. Following Rule of Law, Rice Tells German Chancellor

Secretary addresses European concerns during four-day trip

By Vince Crawley
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – The United States will do everything it can within the limits of the law to protect its people against terrorists, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said while meeting with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin December 6.

The United States and Germany “do share values, and we do share a belief in the rule of law,” Rice said in a joint news conference with Merkel. “We will live up to our commitments under our laws and to our international obligations. We will, in that framework, do everything that we can do lawfully to protect our people.”

Also, Rice said, “We will do everything we can to cooperate with like-minded intelligence services, because we need to remember that this is essentially a war in which intelligence is absolutely key to success.”

Germany’s new chancellor praised Rice’s statement the previous day in which the secretary of state, preparing to depart for a visit to four European countries, said the United States “does not permit, tolerate or condone torture under any circumstances.” (See related article.)

“I think that the statement, the information that the American secretary of state provided yesterday … and the information she provided me with here today is good information, valuable information for the German people,” Merkel said during the joint news conference. She spoke through an interpreter.

Rice’s visit to Germany, Ukraine, Romania and Belgium takes place amid news reports that the CIA has run secret interrogation centers in at least two East European countries. The allegations have resonated in Western Europe, where public opinion has been deeply concerned about the conduct of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. Germans also are concerned that some of the alleged CIA flights may have crossed German airspace.

During the news conference, Merkel said the U.S. government has acknowledged that it “erroneously” took a German citizen into custody who has since been released, and that the matter will be reviewed by Germany’s parliament. Rice said she could not discuss specific details.

“I did say to the chancellor that when and if mistakes are made, we work very hard and as quickly as possible to rectify them,” Rice said. “Any policy will sometimes have mistakes, and it is our promise to our partners that – should that be the case – that we will do everything that we can to rectify those mistakes.”

Merkel said the meeting with Rice “covered the complete spectrum of foreign policy,” and she said Germany’s foreign policy “serves on two pillars, one of which is a European unity and the other is a close trans-Atlantic partnership.” Merkel has said she wants to promote closer ties with the United States, and she is scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House on January 11.

During the news conference, Merkel herself raised the issue of CIA flights through German airspace. “We have to, on the one hand, adhere to the rules of democracy,” she said. “But at the same time, we have to see that our intelligence services can actually do the job that they’ve been created to do, which is to say we need intelligence services in order to be able to face up to the threats to our society in this century of ours.”

Rice said she discussed the issue of detainees with Merkel. In that discussion, she stressed that Americans are following U.S. law and meeting international obligations against torture.

However, intelligence services are under intense pressure to apprehend terrorists before they strike, Rice told reporters.

“If you don’t get to them before they commit their crimes, unlike in the traditional law-enforcement area, they will have committed mass murder against innocent people,” she said. “When you face that kind of threat, you have an obligation to do everything that you can do protect people. And that means getting to the perpetrators of such crimes before they can commit them.”

Earlier in the day, aboard her plane en route to Germany, Rice expanded on her recent statements that the United States does not condone torture of terrorist suspects.

“The president would never ask American citizens to behave unlawfully,” Rice told reporters.

“What I will say to my European colleagues is … that we’re operating under our laws, we’re operating under our international obligations, we’re respecting the sovereignty of the countries with which we are cooperating,” Rice said.

Despite repeated questioning by journalists, she declined to discuss details of the alleged detention centers and would neither confirm nor deny their existence, saying such matters are classified. “I’m not going to compromise intelligence activities that have a chance to save lives,” Rice said. “I would not, under any circumstances, comment yes or no on whether certain kinds of intelligence activities take place.” (See transcript of Rice’s remarks en route to Germany.)

The transcript of Rice’s joint news conference with German Chancellor Merkel 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: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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