April 26th, 2009
12:49 PM ET
5 years ago

Senators rip WH for releasing interrogation memos

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama's decision to release four Bush-era memos regarding the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" was heavily criticized Sunday as a couple of prominent senators told CNN's John King that the decision was a potentially dangerous mistake.

"I think it was a mistake to release the techniques that we're talking about and inform our enemy as to what may come their way," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said on "State of the Union."

Graham, who opposed the use of techniques that many consider to be torture, added that he still believed "there's a way to get good information in an aggressive manner to protect this nation without having to go into the Inquisition era."

Independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who also opposed the use of such techniques, said the continued discussion would "make it harder for the president to do some of the big things he wants to do for the country - not just get the economy going, but get some Republican support for health care reform, energy independence and education reform."

"I go back to what the president said at the beginning, it is time to look forward," Lieberman said. "These are top secret documents. These were lawyers, you could disagree with them but in my opinion they were trying to do what they thought would protect our country."

Lieberman also argued that "this whole debate is moot. President Obama has prohibited these tactics from being used in interrogation, so what do we gain... by releasing the memos (and) from indicting lawyers for their opinions?"

Lieberman also said that, in his opinion, having a so-called "Truth Commission" to investigate the Bush record on interrogation would "poison the water here in Washington. It will achieve nothing. ... So let the Intelligence Committee do its work. That should be the end of it."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, however, argued Sunday that the Bush-era interrogation techniques, not the release of their descriptions, were putting American lives at risk.

Gibbs pointed to comments from National Security Adviser and former Marine General Jim Jones that the continued use of the tactics had put U.S. troops at risk, and told NBC's "Meet the Press" that talk of torture had become a "rallying cry for those who wanted to kill us."

"Our country doesn't have to choose between keeping our people safe and the values that make us America," said Gibbs. "There are things this country just simply doesn't do."

And California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee argued that some kind of investigation was necessary.

"[W]e need to find these things out and we need to do it in a way that's calm and deliberative and professional, because I think all of this, on the front burner, before the public, does harm our intelligence gathering, it does harm America's position in the world."

Several Republicans characterized the dispute over the memos as a dangerous game of political gamesmanship.

Missouri GOP Sen. Kit Bond, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," called the release of the Bush memos "a stab in the back." Former presidential nominee John McCain, R-Arizona, said any talk of prosecution was about "settling old political scores."

"It was bad advice," McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"But if you're going to criminalize bad advice on the part of lawyers, how are we going to get people to serve and what kind of precedent does that set for the future?"

Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett tried to play down the significance of the documents, telling CNN there was too much attention being paid to the memos.

"There's nothing in these documents that Americans hadn't seen all over the news," she said, adding that Obama believed it was time to release them and "move forward."

Jarrett appeared, however, to disagree with McCain's contention that former President Gerald Ford's decision to prevent the prosecution of former President Richard Nixon would be a good example to follow.

Obama, she emphasized, is leaving any prosecution decisions up to the attorney general.

soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. phoenix85

    Lindsey Graham needs to work for the American people, our boys in Iraq were endangered by the disregard of the rules of war by Bush/Cheney

    very irresponsible

    April 26, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  2. Had It

    Graham? Lieberman?

    Gee – who would expect these comments from those two?

    April 26, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. Had It

    BTW – Gerald Ford and Nixon did NOT send over 4,000 of our military to their death for "daddy's war".

    April 26, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  4. Jason-port orange

    Umm...the world knew Bush did this type of stuff...he just covered it up...at least Obama is not covering our faults. The information from waterboarding is crappy info. Just like the salem witch hunting...torture someone enough and they are bound to tell you what you want to hear.

    April 26, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  5. katiec

    The republicans are against releasing the memos as it further proves what kind of president and administration they totally supported.
    And, it informs the enemy what may come their way?? Graham says he is against torture then states we are giving out future secrets?
    Our country will not tolerate future illegal actions by our government.

    Wonder what their comments would have been if the Democrats had been in power when this happened. No, really don't, it would have
    been hypocritical indignation and calls for justice.

    April 26, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  6. Dennis

    I would find it more constructive if individuals would spend the same amount of energy striving to tear others down, by finding ways to work together to solve some of our nations biggest problems. How many billions of dollars have we spent to reap revenge on a handful of terrorists who killed over 3,000 Americans by spending $3.98 for a box cutter? In a mad rush to reap destruction we have nearly bankrupt this country. Have we not learned from the old Soviet Union? So let's continue to get down in the gutter an snipe at everything that the people who were put into power by the American people want to do or do. The intelligent Amerians want to move on, those who continue to want to live in the past, will continue to threw grenades. The more they do, the more Americans will leave the dark side.

    April 26, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  7. skeeve

    And another republican clearly demonstrated that all these people can do it to follow party line. Not a single independent thought.

    April 26, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. lucy

    John King is becoming another shill for the GOP right wing – maybe he should go back to sports until his understanding of politics, economics, and international relations achieves a little more depth. .

    April 26, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  9. gary davis

    Joe Lieberman( mr. magoo.) still can't figure out what side of the fence to purch himself. or as he does goes were the wind blows.

    and what is comming out of Lindsey Grahams mouth wow

    we need to hold those responsible for bad interigations accountable . or we are no better than the small groups of radicals that need to have control of humanity ( mainly their women )
    all this country needs to do is get the word out all over the world that women can have rights and should have freedom. every time we get involved in some political war anywere in the world it all goes right back to women being able to have freedoms . with out men being in control.

    these small groups are at war with the world moving forward .they don't like to loose control of human rights . it would make them feel little .like they really are literally little . with out power they have nothing

    April 26, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  10. Ron

    All these Republican Senators calling the release of the memos a mistake or a stab in the back is kind of funny... given the fact that the WH was following the law. Not that the current version of the Republican Party cares about that at all though. Oh and Graham says out one side of his mouth that we alerting our enemies as to what they might be in for and out the other says we can good intel without using coercive (torture) techniques... snake. Slimy little hypocrite.

    April 26, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. flybyshoeing

    So basically what they are saying is that they wanted President Obama and the DOJ to break the law? Since the release of the memos was by court order the Administration should have showed the court their middle finger? Didn't the previous Administration try that and they lost on appeal? I don't get these guys. I wish the torture hadn't happened, but it did. We are all going to have to deal with it. President Obama needs to reverse reverse the punishment of all those convicted of the abuses at Abu Ghaib and immediately released the soldier that is currently in prison. Put Rumfeld in the cell in his place.

    April 26, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  12. S Callahan

    My question is...has anyone asked former President Bush what he thinks of the release..perhaps he has changed thinking on this.

    April 26, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  13. Jean in Virginia

    I don't want torture used in my name by my government. It has been shown definitively in the past that torture does not work. It makes our country into something that the first settlers were trying to escape from and it belittles the name and honor of the United States of America. Those who think otherwise should try living under the Taliban or in Saudi Arabia. We do not torture. Period.

    April 26, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  14. Will SouthDakota

    Americans deserve to know how our government operates with in times of war and with detainees. Openess is RULE for America, if Senators don't like they don;t have to represent us anymore and can quit the Senate or the House. Americans deserve representatives who speak with our voice and not thier SPECIAL INTERESTS and their LOBBYISTS voices and money.

    April 26, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  15. M J

    Shut up or leave Graham. You are on the wrong side of morality and history.

    April 26, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  16. richard miller

    But it is okay to burn CIA agents and not be prosecuted?????

    April 26, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  17. The Veteran

    Look: Anybody who knows anything about intelligence knows that the enemy will get their information from the former detainees. That's how we did it. Making a big deal over the memos is ludicrous. Much ado about nothing.

    The Senators are wrong. Al Qaeda will look at the info, but they will go by what former detainees tell them regarding our tactics.

    Any terrorist that uses our memos over their own intelligence is doomed. We all know this.

    April 26, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  18. Joan , Ontario

    These policies are not news. They have been public for some time but the Bush administration lied and kept saying "We don't torture". It was all going to come out in a court case soon anyway. Now the Republicans are "outraged" again because the truth came out. Every time Cheney opens his mouth or appears on TV it just reminds everyone all over again about many of the Bush/Cheney misadventures and the serious flaws in their policies. He would be wise to just go quietly away. He is the gift that just keeps on giving for the Democrats. He keeps saying the tortures kept America safe but one of their arguments was that information prevented a plot on a building in LA. However, that plot was known before that suspect was interrogated. Also, he brags that they kept the homeland safe but 911 happened nine months into their reign and they had been forewarned about it. Since then there have been no attacks on US soil but thousands of wonderful Americans have died or been wounded in Iraq. Don't they count? He almost sounds like he hopes or is expecting an attack on the homeland so he can say "I told you so". His bitter and negative comments do nothing to help your country.

    April 26, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  19. Mike Morris

    John King is turning out to be a huge disappointment as host of a Sunday morning show. His guests turn out to be primarily people like Dick Cheney, who is desperately trying to cover up misdeeds from his time in office and other losers like Lieberman.

    At one time I thought John King should be given his own show, but now I tune him out very quickly and get mey fix elsewhere. Too bad. John has been a good reporter and perhaps that what he should be doing.

    April 26, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  20. christine case

    I would suggest that everyone watch the movie Rendition. If you don't think for a minute that torture like that didn't occur in the other countries where we set up secret prisons, I think you are in for a rude awakening. The last eight years of the Bush administration, anything was O.K. The memos that Obama released do not give the terrorists any great revelations as to what we will do. It will maybe bring us to our senses that we as the greatest nation in the world and that we will behave in a way that gives us back our moral authority and dignity. We can behave in a civilized manner as we did for decades. Let us rebuild the admiration that the world had for us before the Bush era.

    April 26, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  21. Marty

    Graham and Liberman– -what a joke. Two (diot) some. Friends of McCain- losers
    John King – what is up with you?

    April 26, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. sandy

    Why does his opposing the release of these memos not surprise me. I think the American people better get used to the fact that the Republicans are going to oppose this President no matter what he does or says. They are really showing their true colors. Instead of working with him to solve all of our problems, they are consistantly fighting him. So much for bipartisanship.

    April 26, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. 29% of Americans are TRAITORS for wanting America to FAIL and 71% of Americans to SUFFER!

    The way Graham, and Lieberman slobber and fawn all over McCain, I think they are into threewaysl

    April 26, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  24. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    What moronic statements.... like "the enemy" couldn't figure out what torture techniques we used?

    The real reason the GOP is upset is because we caught Bush/Cheney/Rice/Rumsfeld is yet another LIE....

    I wish these stupid GOP duds would just plain SHUT UP.... America is NOT a fascist nation, despite the 8 rotten years of Bushco.

    April 26, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. usualone

    Has Lindsey Graham ever said anything "positive" about President Obama and his team?

    April 26, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
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