TAPPER: One of the reasons that human rights groups are upset about the announcement today is, many of them believed, based on a couple statements the president had made, that the president was looking — then senator, now president — was looking forward to a system where detainees would be tried either through the Uniform Code of Military Justice or through U.S. courts. And there are a couple statements the president made, and I’m wondering if you could just reconcile what he said.
In August ’07: "I have faith in America’s courts. I have faith in our JAGs. As president, I’ll close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists."
And then, in August (2008), your campaign issued a statement responding to the Hamdan conviction, the key line being, "It’s time to better protect the American people and our values by bringing swift and sure justice to terrorists through our courts and through our Uniform Code of Military Justice" — no mention of the military commissions.
Now, I understand he supported McCain-Graham-Warner back in ’06, but how do you reconcile these statements with the military commissions? They make no mention of them.
GIBBS: Well, look, the underlying — the underlying issues in each of those statements affording — first, affording for swift and certain justice, as well as sufficient detainee protection that the Supreme Court has now rendered, have to be a part of any military commission is embedded in the exact suggestions that the president is filing today with the court, ensuring that — I mean, you know, the — the court ruled — the court ruled last year that significant protection had to be afforded for the first time to detainees in order for something like this to be constitutional, and those are the changes that the president sought.
You know, again, I think if you go back and look at his statements and understand the role that military commissions have played in the history of the United States, the president believes that in dealing with certain detainees at Guantanamo Bay that this is an appropriate avenue. Obviously, we will also use in some instances Article 3 courts in order to ensure the certainty of justice that the president spoke about.
TAPPER: But, I’m sorry, just a follow-up. I mean, are these just two statements where, if you could go back, you would just add the term "military commission" and it was just — they were just — they were just vague, because…
GIBBS: No, I — I — I think that — I think, if you look back at all these statements, the president has been — has been consistent in his views on this issue and been consistent on what was lacking in order to ensure justice, in order to ensure protection, and most of all to ensure that this process goes forward with and — and doesn’t see repeated legal stalls in going through the court system. I mean, again, the — the notion of — of military commissions in a larger sense is something that’s been with us now for almost eight years. I think some 442 detainees resided at Guantanamo when the president took office.
Obviously, at certain points, there have been even more. I mean, exactly three cases have gone through this system in those almost intervening eight years. I don’t think this is a system that works in any way, shape or form for the American people.