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