September 27th, 2007
03:38 PM ET
11 years ago

Clinton shifts position on torture policy

Has Clinton shifted her position on torture policy?

(CNN) - Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, seems to have changed her position on whether a presidential exception should be allowed to use torture to prevent an imminent terror attack.

There was a difference between her answer Wednesday night in the New Hampshire debate where she said “it cannot be American policy, period,” and comments she made in an interview last October.

The campaign said the change is not significant. Phil Singer, a Clinton spokesman, said, “Upon reflection and after meeting with former generals and others, Sen. Clinton does not believe that we should be making narrow exceptions to this policy based on hypothetical scenarios.”

In the debate Wednesday night, moderator Tim Russert asked Clinton, "This is the number three man in al Qaeda. We know there's a bomb about to go off, and we have three days, and we know this guy knows where it is. Should there be a presidential exception to allow torture in that kind of situation?"

She answered, “As a matter of policy, it cannot be American policy, period. I met with those same three- and four-star retired generals, and their principal point - in addition to the values that are so important for our country to exhibit - is that there is very little evidence that it works.”

"Now, there are a lot of other things that we need to be doing that I wish we were: better intelligence; making, you know, our country better respected around the world; working to have more allies," she added. "But these hypotheticals are very dangerous because they open a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone."

But last October, she was asked about a presidential exception while talking to the New York Daily News editorial board.

She told the paper, "I have said that those are very rare but if they occur, there has to be some lawful authority for pursuing that. And, again, I think the president has to take some responsibility. There has to be some check and balance, some reporting. I don't mind if it is some reporting within a top secret context. But that shouldn't be the tail that wags the dog, that should be the exception to the rule. And that if we deviate in the first instance from very disciplined interrogation methods, that are clearly lined out, and that have validation evaluation that goes forward.”

Clinton expressed doubts about the practice overall, as she did in the debate, telling the Daily News that day, “In my talking to interrogators from CIA, FBI, military backgrounds, they are very skeptical about the utility of severity. They say, ‘Look, the way you get good information, you bribe people."

"You bribe their families. You offer to move them to a place of their dreams. You create a bond so that they feel some connection to you," she added. "But that takes time. And so very often, you know people feel so very much under the gun they don't want to take the time to get the vaild information so they use extraordinary means, and they get junk that doesn't lead anywhere and basically not useful.”

- CNN Political Desk Editor Steve Brusk

Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. James, Phoenix AZ

    Chris Matthews on Hardball last night – hit the nail squarely on the head. Hillary thinks she has won this nomination and is attempting to simply defend her way into a nomination.

    Hillary has started her national campaign. She will begin to say things which are less appealing to her liberal base – and more centurist statements (no gaurantee getting out of Iraq, refuse to answer ANY potential hypothetical answer, do not take a solid stand on any topic, etc).

    She's laughing at you democrats. She knows she has it "in the bag" and no longer has to keep your interests at heart. Everyone in Hollywood is falling over themselves to endorse her and Republicans are preparing their campaigns against her.

    How does it feel to be taken for granted by your own party?

    September 27, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. Jeff, Rochester

    I like the "bribe them" idea better. "Hey Mr. Terrorist, we'll give you ten million dollars if you tell us where you and your friends hid that nuclear weapon..."

    What a crock. This woman is an idiot who will either lie to us and tell us she is against torture but do it anyway. Or, not torture, give the guy a few million and a ticket to paradise.

    In either case, she is wrong. We should torture the SOB and get the info we need to save lives.

    God help us if she is somehow elected.

    September 27, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. JKap, Schaumburg, IL

    I was struck immediately that she did not answer definitively “no” to the question that Russert posed directly to her: "Should there be a presidential exception to allow torture in that kind of situation?"

    September 27, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  4. Sean, Central Florida

    Great job Hill, you say so much without saying anything at all. We don't need more of the same old we need something new. What will she do if they attack again, bomb an empty asprin factory in the middle east?

    "You bribe their families. You offer to move them to a place of their dreams. You create a bond so that they feel some connection to you," HAH, Yes I want my tax dallors paying for terriosts to live in the Bahamas. What a carrer move for the terrosits.

    September 27, 2007 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  5. John, Kansas City, MO

    Although there is a difference between saying "it's not policy" and condemning torture, this is a step in the right direction. I am surprised that America has slipped so much that whether or not torture is justifiable is even a question.

    September 27, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. Jen, Gainvesville, FL 32653

    She is an expert in playing politics. When have Hillary and her husband ever been trustworthy?

    September 27, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  7. BB, Atlanta, GA

    We are surprised she is a flip flopper? I am sorry does that make her a hypocrite? It runs in her family you know – look at Bill. He mindlessly runs out and spews his utter crap and the dems and libs lap it up as the truth.

    September 27, 2007 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. Rob

    Imagine if this story was about Obama. All heck would breakout! It would be on the front page of every paper in America and would circulate in the media for months. How much you want to beat this is story will be forgotten by the media by hmm, let say...tomorrow! We should start count down to another forgotten negative story about Hillary Clinton. Clinton will get away with this one too.

    September 27, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. Lynn Ensley

    we will take Hillary anyway we can get her for president. After this administration it would be impossible to be worse off. This lady is a breath of fresh air after what we have had over the last 7 years. Two for the price of one, We are going to take it back Pugs, I promise you jokers.

    September 27, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. Pixie, Murfreesboro, TN

    The woman is dead on. No torture. Period.

    The fact that there even has to be a debate about this just shows how far our national character has eroded in the past 6 years.

    September 27, 2007 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. laurinda,ny

    JAMES FROM AZ...No wonder your thinking is so screwed up. Fox is for the Republicans. They fill your head with all kinds of nonsense and then you go away thinking that you you are on to something. I can't stand O'Reilly, he is a scatter brain. Most people can not make heads or tails about what he is talking about. If I were you, I would stick with CNN and be well informed.

    September 27, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. Eric, from THE Republic of Texas

    I think this woman was descended from a long line of pretzel makers.

    This must be the case, as she literally ties herself in knots when taking a stand on an issue.

    Getting Senator Clinton to take a stand on an issue (hell, ANY issue... the color of the sky, anything!) and tell you what she really, honestly, truly feels about something, is akin to nailing jello to the wall. It simply cannot be done.

    September 27, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. Carrol Ann, Newport, Maine

    Hillary's comments are not "less" appealing to her liberal base, which includes me. Some of us, nay many of us, believe in and support the Geneva Convention. War has a different face now, and some of us appreciate that. But war is war and the treatment we mete out to our opponents very much affects the way our own troops and civilians are perceived and treated by others. In fact it affects how our nation is perceived!

    Far from "laughing at us" she is in step with many of us. And don't worry, we can withstand the "weak on terrorism" "blast 'em all of the face of the earth" mentality that is going to come our way in full force.

    Many Americans are capable of looking at problems front end out, as opposed to back end in. We look at world politics and question what has created this torrent of rage and hatred towards the U.S. Finding the answers to those type of questions places us in far greater safety than any number of bombs ever will.

    So thank you Hillary for being the voice of reason that has been missing from this country for far too long now.

    See ya in November!

    September 27, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. David, Gilbert Arizona

    Jeff, so you torture the begeebers out of the guy and he tells you everything he thinks you want to hear. How much of what he's saying is true and how much of it is just happy noise to get you to stop torturing him?

    You go look for the bomb where he says it is and of course the bomb isn't there. You come back to torture the guy some more and by then your three days are up. BOOM!

    You're dealing with radical Islamic fundamentalists who strongly believe in martyrdom. These are people who will send young men to run across mine fields in order to clear a path. These young men run willingly across the field knowing full well they will be blown up and die. They do so because of their unfettered belief in their cause. This is what happened when Iraq tried to invade Iran. The war stalemated because both sides are so radical.

    Torture will not work on such a person.

    September 27, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. Ray, Venice, CA

    You republican'ts all need to stop crying about Hillary. You had your chance at running things and you screwed everything usual. Wake up and realize your reign of terror is over, or at least coming to an end. Whether it is Hilary or any of the other Democratic cantidates, it will be a tremendous improvement from the retarded wanna be cowboy in office now.

    Go cry to Bill O’Reilly because no one else is listening, or cares, about your bellyaching.

    September 27, 2007 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  16. D.T., Hartford, CT

    If you have read that article clearly, Jeff, you will see that she didn't endorse the idea of bribing. She is continuing a quote from the generals that bribing is the best way to get information.

    September 27, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. Hope Eternal, St Pete FL

    I do NOT support Hillary, I think she leads based upon the polls. But I also don't like these hypothetical traps that too many of these moderators choose as 'entertainment' questions.

    He says, "We know there's a bomb about to go off." Well how do we know that? Perhaps through other intelligence? If so, then we would follow up on that intelligence! Not torture someone else – perhaps the wrong person no less.

    There is no correct answer for hypothetical questions because too many unforeseen variables cannot be accounted for.

    September 27, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |

    Its just unbearable to know that Ms Hillary (Rodham) Clinton could change her position on any topic.
    Oh Heavens!!! What could be in store for America now? Her support for our troops abroad? Tax breaks?

    September 27, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. two oh nine, gallatin mt.

    YESSSSSSSSSS Hillary 's becoming more like Bush Lite every day ! ! !

    September 27, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  20. Ron, TX

    This is why Hillary Clinton has the highest negatives of all potential nominees in polls. She will do -anything- she can to be the next President. Notice I said the next President, and not our President.

    This is just the highlights. It's only just now making the news, but Hillary has admitted she didn't even READ the Iraq intelligence reports before voting for the war in Iraq. She refuses to admit she made a mistake. She back-tracked so bad on troop pullout that she literally said she doesn't know what she'll be inheriting -one- year from now. And just a few days ago, she voted with Republicans to condemn Iran and move us a step closer to a NEW war.

    People need to start thinking long and hard before they elect this person. Lies, pandering, and dodging hard questions... laughing and cackling during the NH Debates and blatantly refusing to answer questions? Come on!

    September 27, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. Noah, CA

    Jeff, what if that person is innocent and we made a mistake when we captured them? Should we still torture them?

    What if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and somehow got captured yourself? Would you want to be tortured?

    September 27, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. Common Sense

    That photograph is Torture. Not to mention everything Hillary stands for.

    September 27, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  23. Wayne, Washington, Dc

    oh my, what a shocker!

    She's been "flip-flopping" all along.

    Vote Republican with a spine!

    September 27, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  24. j. van dyke, westchester, ny.

    Im smiling real big and I like HIllary a whole better today !

    September 27, 2007 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  25. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    I admit I am not a Democrat, nor do I hate all Democrats, as Biden and Richardson have garnered my respect, but Biden especially, if a Republican won the WH he would be smart to nominate him for Sec. of state.

    Looking for smart and experienced, check out Biden and Richardson.

    I always thought it was a good idea to nominate a few from the losing party to some posts as that way the views and ideas are not always stale.

    I just want to ask how you Democrats (especially the Hillary supporters) feel about her answer on having the troops out by 2013?

    She can't guarantee they will be out in 6 years even though she has been hammering Bush on a timeline for this year, next year or real soon.

    Getting them out is the biggest issue and she blew it and THEN I can't believe the rest blew the WIDE OPEN SHOT.

    I agree with James and Jeff, what is this a game, if she isn't "Not answering a question", she is, yes people, flip-flopping in a small period of time on the ones she calculates she can answer.

    Keep in mind, she didn't read the reports prior to authorizing the war, is on record supporting the toppling of Saddam when it was popular and is also on record as saying that he had weapons and must be stopped.

    Are you happy with her on these issues.

    I will save you the time, Bush sucks and all Republicans suck, now how about some reasoned responses.

    September 27, 2007 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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