September 27th, 2007
03:38 PM ET
7 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. Russell NC

    Hillary is a flip flopper. She will say whatever she thinks will be good for at any given time.

    September 27, 2007 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  2. laurinda,ny

    Don't waste you time on these Republikids, they'll be in bed soon..it's a school night.

    September 27, 2007 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  3. monica, rochester new york

    I think Hillary has a respectable showing in the debates so far. But this particular debate really underscored how her campaign is about playing the political game instead of really trying to connect with the people to give them something to vote FOR. Her cautious evading of answers and providing no specifics was a sad commentary on the kind of leadership she offers. She said "I'm not going to answer that" more times than Alberto Gonzales said " I don't recall". I'm just not interested in more of the same. I'm ready to turn the page.

    September 27, 2007 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  4. Christian, Tampa FL

    Torture doesn't work and never will. I cannot believe that the Republicans are so insane on the torture issue. Aren't they the ones courting Christians?

    Well, there's nothing less Christ-like than torture. If we are an honorable nation, we would pursue benevolent means to gain information, and we would treat our enemies with respect and dignity as international law dictates.

    September 27, 2007 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  5. mass boston

    only in america one can win a debate without answering any question, u go girl in the next 5 years u might as well skip the debate u still be declared a winner,from a neutral point of view now i know why they is mr bush in the white house

    September 27, 2007 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  6. pamEugene OR

    I have enjoyed these comments so much. They have been the best I have read yet! To Marshall who asked "why are people piling on this woman". I can tell you. She talks and talks and talks but will not take a clear stand on anything anymore. She does indeed think she has it in the bag and is completely unwilling to say anything that might trip her up later. She has so many different answers on each issue that she can't keep them all straight. Her answers depend on her current audience. She just wants this so badly that she will say anything (or nothing)to get there. I watched her on all the Sunday shows and I can't count the number of times she would say "I can't specualte on that" or "I am not going to answer that" or "don't try to pin me down on that" I want her and all the others running to speculate. I want to know what my president will do given a set of circumstances. You MUST speculate to tell us what you think you might do. No one else dodges as many questions as she does. I do not trust anything she says and I do think she is Bush heavy. She will never get us out of the horrible war or get all of us fair health insurance or deal with the illegal immigration issues. She has such a giagantic ego she only wants to be Madame President that she will lie lie and then lie some more.
    Yes, I am a Hillhater now!
    Obama 08...give me hope.

    September 27, 2007 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  7. Mike, Cleveland, Ohio

    James Phoenix

    "call General Petreaus a liar"
    Are you inferring that Hillary called him a liar by not voting for the moveon.org ad condemnation or did she actually say this?

    Please site your source
    Thanks

    September 27, 2007 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  8. Mark in Raleigh NC

    John Edwards couldn't even help carry his home precinct in Raleigh,NC in 2004 election. HILLARY will be the next President and I will cast my tarheel vote for her in the NC primary
    and cancel out John Edward's vote for himself in his adopted State of NC.

    September 27, 2007 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  9. Jen Dublin, Ohio

    Hillary '08 – I can't wait!!

    September 27, 2007 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  10. Truth Teller

    By voting yes on Kyl-Lieberman, Hillary demonstrates that she learned NOTHING from her vote to give GWB power to invade Iraq. Let's wake up before it's too late. She is incapable of change, and we will be at war with Iran if she has any say in it.

    September 27, 2007 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  11. Michael, Houston, TX

    Hillary Clinton. It should by Hypocritcal Clinton. Once again the Clinton's are betting that Americans are fools. Unfortunately, they're probably right.

    September 27, 2007 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  12. Ron, TX

    Some of the rationalizations you people are making for Hillary Clinton are down-right absurd. She said there could be case where she uses torture, and now, she says there is "no case" for torture?! Yeah. There is no room for her to play middle ground in there. You either torture or you don't. You can't have it both ways.

    She just magically changed her mind over the course of a few months? That's what she -DOES-! She says what the audience wants to hear even if she doesn't believe it! The problem with that is that we don't know if she would or would not torture somebody now. Deep down inside, you HRC supporters KNOW there's something messed up with what she jsut did. And you KNOW that there's something messed up about a presidential candidate who REFUSES to answer a question! Your job is the ANSWER the people's questions so we KNOW what your positions are!

    September 27, 2007 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  13. David, Minneapolis, MN

    Hillary Clinton the flip-flopper, she makes Democrats look horrible! This is why Obama should win, a guy that is consistent on his views. This is the woman who voted to authorize action in Iraq

    September 27, 2007 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  14. John, Seattle, WA

    I would vote for Bill if he ran again, but no chance am I voting for Hillary.

    September 27, 2007 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  15. ronnie - knoxville, tn.

    i think "christian" doesn't know many christians or republicans. check the old testament; the bible does indeed favor war and especially the Word of God tells us to fight evil and there's a lot of evil over there in the middle east in case you haven't noticed.

    September 27, 2007 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  16. Karen, Des Moines, Iowa

    So, she is against torture because it does not work? Not because it is wrong!

    September 27, 2007 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  17. EJS Dallas Texas

    I would love to hear more about ALL the great things AMERICA has found via torture. must be some great American tradition. If americans suppports torture WE cannot possibly complain when OUR servicemen are tortured.IF it's so reliable why aren't we using it domestically. George Bush knows nothing about torture, the very honorable John McCain is infinitely more aware of ALL the aspects of torture. YA know People, OUR first reaction is usually not the BEST solution, any Adult should realize that.

    September 28, 2007 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  18. Try and find me?

    Please dont torture terrorist, when have we ever done anything to you.

    September 28, 2007 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  19. Daniel, El Paso, TX

    As a veteran I will say this, Hillary stance on torture is sick. Its not about the bomb, there are other ways to deal with that issue. Evacuations etc are all possible ideas, but to say that you would side step international conventions to get what we want? Thats horrible. I don't want to "waste" my vote on a 3rd party again, lets actually get someone that has some brains in office. Please... please... Wake up America.

    September 28, 2007 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  20. Walters, A

    IT'S HI TIME WE LOOK CRITICALLY BEFORE ELECTING OUR LEADERS SHE IS A TRUE ESCALATION OF THE BUSH LEGACY,DISHONESTY AT THE PEAK BUT FORTUNATELY ENOUGH FOR HER, NO ONE IN THIS INTELLECTUAL DISHONEST MEDIA WILL POINT THIS OUT, (EXCEPT THE BEST CHRIST MATHEW, FRIENDLY REMINDER

    1) SHE JUST VOTED TO NAME THE IRANIAN NATIONAL GUARD, A TERORIST GROUP TOMMOROW WHEN HER CLIQUE OF BUSH AND NEOCONS DECISE TO ATTACK IRAN, SHE WILL CLAIM HER VOTE WAS TO GIVE THIS SAME PRESIDENT ENOUGH ROOM FOR DIPLOMACY.

    2) VOTED FOR THE IRAQ WAR WHICH IS PRESENTLY THE WORST FOREIGN POLICY DISASATER IN THIS COUNTRY- VEHEMENTLY AND ARROGANTLY REFUSE TO APPOLOGIZE FOR HER ERRORS, WITHOUT EVEN READIND THE REPORT
    .3) PANDERING TO BLACK VOTERS BUT REFUSED FUNDING AND EXTENSION OF MORE HIV FUNDS FOR BLACKS IN SOUTH CAROLINA 2006 IN THE SENATE

    4) LIKES TO RUN ON HER HUSBAND POSITIVE LEGACY BUT REFUSE TO INHERIT THE BAD ONES, NAFTA (1993) NO PROTECTION OF AMERICAN WORKERS. HUSBAND WAS CALL THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT IRONICALLY HIGHEST BLACKS INCARCERATION RATE DURING HIS REGIME.

    5) THE MOST DEVISIVE OF ALL CANDIDATES BUSH TRIED SO HARD TO PASS AN IMMIGRATION BILL UNDER A DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS WHICH WAS PRO IMMIGRATION BUT DID NOT SUCCEED DESPITE NUMEROUS TRIPS TO THE CAPITOL SIMPLY BECAUSE HE IS JUST AS POLARIZED LIKE HER.

    6) ARROGANT AND DICTATORIAL- REFUSED TO ANSWER QUESTION SHE FELT WILL EXPOSE HER< DEEPLY EMBEDED WITH COPERATE INTEREST AND LOBBYIST- JUST A CONTINUATION OF GREED AND SELF AGGRANDISEMENT< FAVOR OUTSOURCING USA JOBS TO INDIA, REFUSING TO NAME DONNORS TO THE CLINTON'S PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY BECAUSE OF A CONTINUATION OF THE NORMAN HSU DONATIONS SCANDALS.
    SHE CAN'T EXPLAIN HER STANDS ON ANY MAJOR ISSUE.
    I WILL VOTE FOR CANDIDATES WHO WILL BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER AND GET THE JOB DONE.
    OBAMA-BIDEN 2008 OR VICE VERSA, CANDIDATES WITH INTERGRITY AND CANDOR.
    " A WORD TO A WISE IS SUFFICIENT" JUST DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE VOTING NOT SIMPLY FANATISM.

    September 28, 2007 03:55 am at 3:55 am |
  21. Derrick, San Diego CA

    Torture should not be allowed. If we start torturing terrorists THEY WILL TORTURE US. This would be terrible for the military. The whole purpose of the Geneva Convention was ethical treatment in all situations. Once we show that we are willing to torture prisoners, how are we going to stop other countries from torturing US Prisoners and military. We can't. We will lose our moral ground. Sometimes you have to find other ways to get information. I wish people would think of the consequences of thier actions before they advocate them. There is a reason why the US Military and Intelligence officials say no to torture.

    September 28, 2007 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  22. JB Boston MA

    Hey Pixie-

    Read the article. She is saying that torture is an option.

    She also said that we are going to be in Iraq for a long long time. But even though those were two major hot buttons for Dems, and, Hill originally said what you dems wanted to hear, she has brainwashed you now. Now you all are on board, and can't get off. WHERE IS YOUR POLITICAL FORTITUDE? It is actually kinda amusing!!! And sad on some level!

    September 28, 2007 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  23. Chip Celina OH

    Monica from Rochester,

    I've looked at both of your posts and am in complete agreement with you. Sen. Clinton is a very good politician. But is that what we need?

    Your first post on this blog used one of my favorite phrases, "process information." I haven't seen her ability to do that. I know a lot of people will try and jump on this, but she doesn't do it. She memorizes talking points and stances on things that have happened, and can regurgitate the "team's" version/recollection of the issue very well. But, when it comes to thinking on her feet, she doesn't do it.

    After Gravel blind-sided her in the debate the other night, she started her reply with "I don't know where to start..."
    That's because a new situation arose that hadn't been 'in the script'. What was her final response to that? I'm still waiting.

    When Tim Russert dropped the bomb (no pun intended) on her with the revelation that her husband provided the answer he quoted on the torture question, she got that deer in the headlights look, then tried to make a funny, "Well, he's not standing here, is he" yeah, too bad to because that's why probably 40% of the folks that support her are doing so, to get Bill back. (You know 2-for-1). Then she tried to follow it up with another funny, I'll talk to him about that tonight. Yeah, I'd really have liked to been a fly on the wall for that conversation.

    Have a good Friday,

    September 28, 2007 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  24. JB Boston MA

    Over and over again on this ticker I have seen people use the excuse, "but the (insert party) did it first" or as STEVE says in his post:

    You mean, like Gonzales, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld already have?

    Steve, correct me if I am wrong, you didn't like it when Bush et al did it, why would it be OK for your candidate to do it?????

    I think everyone can agree that the past 8 years have not been great years.

    I think we can also agree that we all want change. When we all use the excuse "but (insert career political person here) did it". . . it truthfully gets us no where.

    We all need to start putting our feet down and saying no more. We are not going to put up with you telling us one thing during the elections, in order to get elected, and doing another when in office. And if something upsets us if our rival (if you have a rival party) party does it, we should not be open to our party doing the same thing.

    Recently Bill CLinton accused the Republican party of being hypocrites. The truth is, both parties are hypocrites and only the voter can make it stop. Call out your party when they are doing things you don't like or being hypocritical.

    But this childish you did it first thing has GOT TO STOP.

    JB stepping off his soap boax. . . . .

    September 28, 2007 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  25. MG, Manchester, CT

    She said, "As a matter of policy, it cannot be American policy." So does that mean that perhaps it could be used at times when it's warranted and serve as an exception to the policy? I think she's quite a cunning speaker – just read her statements.

    September 28, 2007 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
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