White House (AP) - President Bush is acknowledging the existence of secret CIA prisons for terror suspects. And he says the terror leaders who've been held there are "dangerous men" with "unparalleled knowledge" about the workings of terror networks.
Bush says the security of the United States, and the ability to protect American lives, depends on the ability to learn what these men know.
He spoke at the White House, to an audience including family members of 9/11 victims, after a senior official disclosed that 14 of these terror leaders have now been transferred to Guantanamo Bay to await trial.
Bush says information gathered from these suspects has helped to "connect the dots," and to stop attacks before they occur.
He says had it not been for the program, the terrorists would have succeeded in launching another attack.
Bush says just a "small number" of detainees were held in the secret CIA prisons, including people responsible for the 9/11 attacks, the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen and the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
In questioning the prisoners, Bush reiterated, "the US does not torture." he says he has not authorized torture, and will not.
But he says the US will use "every lawful method" to get information from them. And he says he intends to prosecute them for their crimes.
President Bush confirmed the transfer of the 14 terror leaders to Guantanamo Bay, and said they're being held by the Department of Defense. He says as soon as congress authorizes the military commissions he's proposing to hold trials for these men, they can "face justice."
President Bush said the commissions would be established in a way that protects national security, while also guaranteeing a "full and fair trial" for the accused. He says the procedures would "reflect the reality" that the US is a "nation at war." he says officials must be able to use "all reliable evidence to bring these people to justice."
He says in the meantime, the suspects will "be treated with the humanity that they denied others."
Bush says there are no longer any terror suspects being held at the CIA prisons, now that the 14 have been transferred to Guantanamo.
But he says the program will have to stay in existence, as the US continues the search for "those who have stepped forward to take their places."
President Bush called on Congress to pass legislation that would protect US personnel from being sued by terror suspects for allegedly violating their rights under the Geneva Conventions.
We'll have much more on these developments coming up on Volunteer TV News at 5:30 with complete coverage on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric tonight at 6:30.
Copyright 2006 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.