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. Lynda/Minnesota

    I find it ironic that conservatives are so willing to toss their strong Christian values aside when those values get in the way of their personal safety, finances, or bigotry.

    I have always thought that the Bush Administration was the most dangerous when trying to convince Americans that decisions being made were for our safety and our protection. Fear engulfed this country after 9/11, and sadly it still does. Because we are a nation built on strong principals and ethics, we should never let our personal protection or individual safety overlook our moral judgement. To do so makes us no better than those we oppose.

    And, yes, I am a Christian.

    April 26, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  2. Proud American

    Why would anyone quote or print anything that Lindsey Graham has to say? Who cares what any Moron who chose to stand on the wrong side of history has to say?

    April 26, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. Dan, TX

    Why should the government spend our tax dollars on this swine flu stuff. Let market forces take care of it. WE DON'T NEED Government.

    April 26, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. Truth 1st

    Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Graham is waterboarding a crime or not?

    I don't care about whether you think it was politically expedient to release these memos or not .... I care about the truth.

    April 26, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. Bill

    Please why are the news shows put these Republican on the Sunday talk shows anyway? We all know what they are going to trash the President regardless what the President does. President Obama can not even chew gum without these Republicans finding something to complain about please GOP give it a rest.

    I seem to recall Senator Graham being in the House a few years back preaching the Rule of Law concerning President Clinton? I guess the GOP is only concern about the Rule of Law if the Dems break the law?

    Again GOP you lost and the way you are going in 2010 you will lose more seats in Congress!

    April 26, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. Bill

    Oh, the outrage! The fake outrage!

    Somebody hose the senators down with cold water, please.

    April 26, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  7. p smith

    This has nothing to do with national security because the memos had to be de-classified in order to be released in the first place. Apparently news about torture has been leaking for quite a while. This has to do w/ the fact that all this happened on a Republican watch and now there has to be "damage control" by them. The best way to do that in Graham's opinion and others is to throw negative statements out to the nation that what the Obama administration is doing is wrong.

    April 26, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. I Am The Great And Powerful Rush Of Oz

    Yeah lindsey, be afraid of openness in government.

    April 26, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. Letcommonsenseprevail

    Are all of you people that naive so as to think this hasn't been going on for decades? Every president knows it's going on and turns a blind eye. It's called protecting the country without a shooting war or cold war. Unfortunately, since we have all these bleeding hearts the cold, harsh realities of what war is really about is coming to light and they don't like it. Now that they have a puppet in the WH, they can force thier agenda and get revenge on the Bush administration for preventing any further attacks. HOW DARE HE DEFEND OUR COUNTRY?!!!

    Morons, wake up. They attacked first, we attacked better.

    April 26, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  10. Doreen

    All this from the country that likes to call itself the greatest country in the world – not anymore. Great countries don't torture – simple as that. This gets more revolting by the day.

    Doreen J., Canada

    April 26, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  11. Johnny5

    It seems to me the Republican Party is more concerned with the release of the memos, than our Government (top officials) breaking the law.

    If the use of torture saved lives, then Cheney feels breaking the law was justifiable. Isn't that the same attitude our enemies have? George Bush said his administration was against torture, now Cheney says we received valid information during the torture process.

    What was the word people are using to describe Pres. Obama's stance on the issue of torture?

    April 26, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. Wily Brown

    This will come back and bite the democrats hard starting 2010 and 2012. Continuing to bash that last administration is all they have accomplished.

    April 26, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. June in FL

    Do you really think the terrerist or al Quada didn't already know what kind of interrogations were being done? They are far from stupid....just stupid in their extremism

    April 26, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  14. Dave NYC

    OK a couple of Rpeublican senators criticized Obama for releasing memos which THEY agreed with. These guys are only trying to save their own backsides for being complicit in torture. That's the reason they are going on the offense.

    April 26, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. ttofast70@comcast.net

    Lindsey Graham sounds like Truman Capote. Is he a "Log Cabin" republican?????

    April 26, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  16. GOPer

    Obama is doing the right thing. Cheney started this entire discussion. Now its time for the truth to come out!

    April 26, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. JonDie

    Why don't Stalinists and religious fundamentalist extremists like Lindsay Graham move to Iran or Russia, where Stalinism is still the rule? I prefer to live in a country where the rule of law is enforced, not the rule of the torturers and terrorists whom Graham defends.

    April 26, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  18. Texas Teacher

    Cheney is a sadist... pure and simple. That is why he went around with an evil sneer on his face for 8 years. I'll bet he got his rocks off feeling like a dictator for 8 years.... above and beyond the law.
    He was contemptous of the American people. In fact, he thought that he and the republican party WERE law. If he wanted torture, he got torture whether it worked or not. And he wanted torture. The man is evil... and now he is not so sure that he is going to get off "scott free"... and I hope he is right! NO ONE is ABOVE the LAW! Not even Dick Cheney!

    April 26, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  19. Jason

    It's very strange how these arrogant politicians and pundits have actually succeeded by OPENLY behaving as though torture wouldn't be such a big deal if no one paid attention to it. How?

    It's like watching everyone eat live human babies or something: and all i can do is sit here and watch horror struck, wondering "how in the hell did this become acceptable?"

    I want to know who these fools are that are convinced by their arguments? How is it I can go to jail for possession of marijuana, but the people who stick things into people, uninvited, actually get defended by the same people who would rather send me to jail for harmless lifestyle choices? I can get fined for speeding, but they can get away with a crime second only to murder?

    Who's sticking up for these people? Why?

    April 26, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  20. Patricia

    Why does Obama hate Bush so....My god bush was only trying to keep America safe....Its more then i can say for Obama ...Why isn't Obama upset about the torture 3000 people went through on 911? and the American people......God will Obama stop at nothing to get Bush....It seems it's all Obama has on his mind.....

    April 26, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  21. Walter

    The release of those memos was only dangerous to the people whose names appear at the end of them. And these mealy mouthed apologists for torture in the Senate know that.

    April 26, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. The Teester

    Graham and Lieberman are about ready to become extinct, their rhetoric and charges are of old school white Republicans and their time is past. Same thing for the short-sided and "party-first" pundits like Flush Limbo, Sean Insannity., and Anne Colderrrrr...let the party of NO continue as they will soon be the party of NO MORE.

    April 26, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. John-Sturgis, S. Dakota

    Taxpayers have forked over hundreds of billions of dollars for defense technologies, and the best our war monkeys can do is come up with torture used by human sadists before the bronze age. How embarrassing. I expect anyone in the US government who finds these torture techniques acceptable to use, will be good enough to submit to the procedure themselves. If our police departments demonstrate taser strikes, and mace formula's on the officers who use the tools of their trade, so should the US Congress, DoD, CIA, and the VP if your name is Cheney. You should know first hand if the techniques you order to be used on another living creatures is right. Because we can, doesn't mean we should.

    April 26, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  24. Yanni4

    Basically, these people are ok with torture; as long as nobody knows about it.

    Isn’t it hypocritical for those whom advocated war against a nation in the name of freedom, peace and human right promote torture as the means for their cause?

    It is remarkable to notice that their value system highly conditional. People know and they can see through this tortured logic.

    April 26, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. Texas Teacher

    Lindsey "the middle class is a bunch of whinners" Graham and Joe "I'm think I'm on the winning side and that is all that counts" Lieberman have absolutely nothing to say that is in any way relevant to what our President decides to do on any issue. Why they are given such press is beyond me. It's like listening to the foxes defend the hen house raids and the leader of the pack!

    April 26, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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