The United States supports those who seek to exercise universal rights around the world. We promote our values above all by living them at home. We continue to engage nations, institutions, and peoples in pursuit of these values abroad. And we recognize the link between development and political progress. In doing so, our goals are realistic, as we recognize that different cultures and traditions give life to these values in distinct ways. Moreover, America’s influence comes not from perfection, but from our striving to overcome our imperfections. The constant struggle to perfect our union is what makes the American story inspiring. That is why acknowledging our past shortcomings—and highlighting our efforts to remedy them—is a means of promoting our values.
America will not impose any system of government on another country, but our long-term security and prosperity depends on our steady support for universal values, which sets us apart from our enemies, adversarial governments, and many potential competitors for influence. We will do so through a variety of means—by speaking out for universal rights, supporting fragile democracies and civil society, and supporting the dignity that comes with development.
Strengthen the Power of Our Example
More than any other action that we have taken, the power of America’s example has helped spread freedom and democracy abroad. That is why we must always seek to uphold these values not just when it is easy, but when it is hard. Advancing our interests may involve new arrangements to confront threats like terrorism, but these practices and structures must always be in line with our Constitution, preserve our people’s privacy and civil liberties, and withstand the checks and balances that have served us so well. To sustain our fidelity to our values—and our credibility to promote them around the world—we will continue to:
Prohibit Torture without Exception or Equivocation: Brutal methods of interrogation are inconsistent with our values, undermine the rule of law, and are not effective means of obtaining information. They alienate the United States from the world. They serve as a recruitment and propaganda tool for terrorists. They increase the will of our enemies to fight against us, and endanger our troops when they are captured. The United States will not use or support these methods.
Legal Aspects of Countering Terrorism: The increased risk of terrorism necessitates a capacity to detain and interrogate suspected violent extremists, but that framework must align with our laws to be effective and sustainable. When we are able, we will prosecute terrorists in Federal courts or in reformed military commissions that are fair, legitimate, and effective. For detainees who cannot be prosecuted—but pose a danger to the American people—we must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards. We must have fair procedures and a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified. And keeping with our Constitutional system, it will be subject to checks and balances. The goal is an approach that can be sustained by future Administrations, with support from both political parties and all three branches of government.