April 26th, 2009
12:49 PM ET
6 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. Barbara

    Of course Graham would say what he said. He and other Republicans should realize they'd gain more respect if -just for 0nce-they 'd say something positive about President Obama instead of playing by party guidelines each and every time. I don't bother to listen to them because I know what they are going to say. Remember in Miracle on 34th Street-when the Macy's Santa sent customers to other stores if Macy's didn't have what they were looking for..same thing here-if they'd answer by putting the country first instead of always being a Republican-or vice-versa with a Democrat speaking-then I think we'd all be better off. President Obama is doing a great job-not that we all agree on everything but he is out there-trying-and that is quite refreshing!

    April 26, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  2. William Charlotte, NC

    "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

    Lindsey, Do you not think they already knew.... since they were the ones we were waterboarding. Up until now, your "NO'S" were at least plausible, but this is indefensible. It is not whether it is effective or not.... PLAIN AND SIMPLE... IT IS AGAINST THE LAW...THOSE THAT DID IT SHOULD BE PUNISHED.... AMERICA DOES NOT TORTURE.

    Also Lindsey, when Obu Graib was in the news, Cheney and Rummy admitted to torture... Pictures were released then.. Remember Rummy saying a "few bad apples did this and caused our country harm." Now we find out that these SOB's (Cheney, Rice, Bush and Rummy) knew all along because they had ORDERED it! The worse part, for these "American loving hypocrites," they let the soldiers take the blame for it and go to prison. Why should they be treated any differently?

    April 26, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. a lincoln

    I have sympathy for the Bush White House. It was colossally WRONG to authorize torture, of course – but I can understand how, in panic, hubris & ignorance they built themselves into that box where such criminal & unconstitutional acts seemed to make sense.

    What I can't understand is how any of these politicians and pundits can sit on TV stages today and defend or explain away any of it.

    They only way forward for the US is to give a full accounting to the world.

    April 26, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. Tariq

    First, these techniques will NEVER be used again Graham. Second, torture is still a horrible experience whether you know about it going to war or not. Third, when our enemies capture and torture our soldiers...I'd like to see Graham and Lieberman say the same thing in their defense.

    Stop with "looking forward" idea because you have to look back and confront crimes if you really intend to put it behind you.

    Graham is an idiot and should stop talking.

    April 26, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. Erik in Real Pennsylvania

    Graham and Lieberman are "prominent" senators all right...prominent right-wingers embodying irrelevance. Lieberman si about as "Independent" as Fox News.

    Surely there are ways for our intelligence community to stay vigilant without our participation in torture. I know some people would justify torture or killing a number of non-Americans to possibly save American lives. I can understand that sentiment, but the key word is "possibly." How much of our national noble bearing should we give up due to fear? At what point do we inflict harm on a person without a trial, and hope the information we receive as a result will do some good? Who decides when we cross this line (or allow others to do it for us), and under what Constitutional authority? I just cannot give up American honor for the uncertain chance of some shreds of data gained by torturing people. Life is risk, bad things like terrorism will always happen, and if that's the price of some illusion of safety, I'm unwilling to pay it.

    Surely there are other ways.

    April 26, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  6. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Most intelligent American citizens can think better than some of these idiots in Washington because they can't seem to figure their way out of a paper bag. I get tired of hearing about their useless opinions.

    April 26, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  7. Francheska

    Lindsey Graham needs to go to work for the state of South Carolina. I was stationed there while I was in the AF and South Carolina is a poor and poorly educated state,

    As far as torture, it should never be done. The United States signed agreements saying we would not do it. Just because Bush found lawyers willing to rewrite law, does not make it right.

    April 26, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  8. erika morgan

    I can understand why Republicans and Democrats are very worried about openness in the way our government works because they are all equally culpable for wrong behavior. This is the reason for the suspicion and disapproval with which the public views Congress. I ask these leaders to take note: we Americans, Sovereign Citizens are going to assert our right for collective self determination as promised by our democratic constitution. The cat is out of the bag and will not be stuffed back in. A political awakening has happened.

    Legal remedies for probable violations of the law are never political wrangling. Legal remedies bringing the light of day upon shrouded acts allow democracy where continued disinformation prevents democracy and is a form of diabolical tyranny, that the world has seen too much of. Legal remedies allow righteous citizens to once again hold up their heads. Legal remedies restore America to a rightful place in the family of nations. Legal remedies are the only way folks in other nations can be inspired that economic investment in America is a prudent idea. Legal remedies are the road for America to take as a necessary part of dusting off the transgressions of the past in order to get to any sort of future including a place at the table with honorable people. In short legal remedies going up and down the whole cascade of the acts are the only thing that can save the America, we find ourselves in; they are our one ticket left to declaring that we are still a democracy who respects the rule of law in the end.

    April 26, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Kathy in Minnesota

    While these despicble acts were going on, Lindsay Graham was looking the other way.

    So nice of him to be upset that the Bush/Cheney Administration was breaking the laws of Morality.

    April 26, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  10. Terry

    I support the release of all classified information relating to the treatment and interrogation of prisoners since 2000. We need to know what Americans were doing and why they did it.

    I also oppose the prosecution of Americans who obeyed their orders. They were told that those orders were lawful by their superiors, by their Attorney General (if he doesn't know the law, then who does), by their President, and by adoring American voters who told them they were doing a wonderful and patriotic job. We all knew that the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay were not playing pattycake with their guards. We all knew the CIA was handing prisoners to other nations for torture that was much more severe than waterboarding. We, as a nation, re-elected the administration who was doing all that.

    If we must prosecute, then I recommend that we start with the voters who voted to re-elect Bush after they knew that the Administration was torturing prisoners (don't pretend you didn't). I say, let's interrogate the people who voted and compel them to tell us who they voted for. Those who voted for Bush should, of course, be imprisoned as co-conspirators. Some of those voters will lie, of course, to avoid prison, so we may have to waterboard them a few dozen times to get the truth out of them. In a democracy, the buck stops with the voters. Our elected officials were doing what most of us approved of – while public opinin favored the war.

    Who did you vote for? Perhaps YOU should be prosecuted.

    April 26, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  11. Donna from Colorado Springs

    What a shock for a bunch of Republican senators to be upset about this! Of course they are! They should be totally embarrassed that the administration that they loved so much would act so evil and lie to everybody about was was going on! The entire eight years that we had to go through with them was a big fat lie, and the American people deserve to hear the ENTIRE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT WENT ON! The Republicans want to put a spin on everything and whine that releasing the memos was wrong. The time for keeping secrets is over!

    April 26, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  12. VON BISMARK,Vienna.

    Their reaction is more out of fear than good reasoning.They have a lot to hide.Would their reaction be the same if it were the other way round? They claim the democratic comgressional leadership was aware of the so-called enhanced interrogation methods.But they are for investigation because they have nothing to hide.

    April 26, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  13. Franky

    This ain't big news, this is old news, and if the GOP are telling me if they were in that situation, they also would not have released anything...that's all a bunch of bullcrap, as far as I'm concerned, my boy ain't breaking any promises, the left want you dead GOP...ohh yeah, dead!! LOL!!!

    This is what you get, you should have seen it coming...

    April 26, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  14. German,Irish American

    Wonder how many of the memos that show the results of the "harsh interrogation" are being destroyed by the Obama administration because it would show that they worked? Otherwise why isn't he releasing the complete interrogation memos and results? Democrats have a history of destroying classified information illegally, remember Sandy Burger?

    April 26, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  15. Gerry

    The Republicans may not know this but democracy is best defended by an informed public. How are we Americans to make intelligent and informed decisions about the conduct of our elected officials if they are constantly hiding and evading and otherwise misleading us into thinking that they are doing something they are not or they are doing something that they don’t want us to know about? “Ripping” is what the Republicans did to the Constitution during their past eight years in power. President Obama is right in keeping the American public informed about the conduct of our elected leaders and holding their behavior to the light of public scrutiny. The Republicans have a major liability in regards to the torture practices of the Bush administration; they do not want the facts of their conduct to become public knowledge in an official way. Everything that was in those memos was already public information; it had not been released by an official of the federal government. My congratulations to President Obama for opening up the conduct of the federal government in respect to the use of integration techniques that the US military has said were considered torture.

    April 26, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Sean in FL

    "...without having to go into the Inquisition era." Wait a second! The "water cure", aka water boarding (modern term), was the first level of torture employed by the Spanish Inquisition.

    Maybe Sen. Graham is referring to the fact that this form of torture actually predates the Inquisition. If you are a hypocritical liar like most Republicans seem to be these days then yup, you're right, we don't have to go back to the Inquisition era to retrieve information from suspects. We can go back to BEFORE the Inquisition era and use those techniques.

    Whew! That was a good save Sen. Graham. I sure can't wait until you go back to being Mr. Graham. I've had enough of this "man" who hates bailouts but whose state is a federally funded welfare state. For each $1 that goes to the Federal Government in tax receipts South Carolina receives $1.35 back. What a joker.

    April 26, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  17. Melissa

    The Republicans just don't like being asked to take responsibility for their own dirty underwear. US enemies already knew what was going on and so did citizens. US enemies have never needed proof of anything to attack and would do so anyway. The US citizens just now have the proof that they deserve so they can officially protest it.

    April 26, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  18. Larry from RI

    Torture is illegal and is a crime against humanity – you can not justify it under the Geneva Conventions or any other legal framework.

    Who has the moral high ground when one of our troops end up as a POW – what will you say then? It's still OK to torture?

    What if Iran decides to water board the US journalist they have accused of spying? Is that OK because it is in their national security interests?

    These Senators have proven themselves to be no better than our enemy is – animals!

    April 26, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  19. arithmetic is liberal

    Graham: Wait! You can't release those memos! They'll tarnish the image of the Republican Par- I mean America!

    April 26, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  20. Trang

    You should live as if your life is transparent before God w/ nothing to hide, because secrets tend to be exposed w/ time. Torture our fellow human beings is wrong and should be stopped. Release the memos might reveal things that we don't want to hear or acknowledge, but it's better to be faced w/ the truth. We are not perfect. We apologize and move on and try to improve ourselves. It seems the Republicans are defending torture, and if that's true, I don't think they have a future. We don't want to feel like 'ugly' Americians. We want to feel 'proud' of being Americans.

    April 26, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. simon

    You can imagine, Alkaida terrorist inhumanly has killed more than 3000 innocent people in twin tower NY. They killed not just torturing those victims. We are supposed to kill those terrorists that have proven part of Alkaida (not just to torture). Then people that oppose to technique used to get information to avoid repeating terrorist act those people include Barack Obama and congress and in Senate without realizing that if previous adm accused to torture killers of more than 3000 people then you prosecute those involved in so called torture technique it means also those people would like to give reward to those terrorist that going to release from Guantanamo jail because they will file law suit to US gov. millions of dollar each. That means also those people who wanted to support that technique is a torture, also will reward terrorist millions of dollars each after they kill thousands of US citizen?

    April 26, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  22. lady in the know

    Let's put "torture" in perspective...it is the feelings that the people felt on the airplanes that were hijacked and plowed into buildings and that field in Shanksville. It is the feelings of the loved ones listening to the last words of their loved ones on the cellphones while they were plunging to their deaths on those planes. It is the feelings of the people leaping to their deaths from the World Trade Centers and the ones falling to theirs on the inside when the towers collapsed. It is the feelings of the ones left behind that they will feel for the rest of their lives. It is the feelings that the ones that survived will feel when they look in the mirror and see the scars left from that day. And the mental scars will never heal either. And how many can honestly say they don't feel anger and hatred for the terrorists that did those deeds. And when we are presented with the photos of the planes slicing into the towers, how many among us can say we don't feel anger at the Muslims. My point is-this is torture, waterboarding isn't. And the release of the photos will have the same effect on the rest of the world as the photos of those planes do to us. Think about it when you are on your righteous high horse. You can't fight a forest fire with a garden hose, in other words, you can't fight a war by being nice. And sometimes you have to break the rules to win.

    April 26, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  23. Don

    I remember a place where prisoners were tortured and information was routinely kept from the people. It was called the USSR, and we didn't think it was right then. Why should we now?

    April 26, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  24. Judy

    John King is a horrible journalist. Not once did he mention that President Obama was responding to a law suit in releasing these memos, and he did so only after great debate and thought. He didn't just wake up one day and say "Hey, Let's release some classified memos today."

    Also, Mr. King didn't correct Sen. Graham when he said -"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." President Obama put an end to these techniques on his first full day of office.

    I never thought I would say this, but PLEASE bring Wolf back to the Sunday show.

    April 26, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  25. Rob in Detroit Mi.

    You rip the president for releasing human right's violations,the republicans are scum,every body is upset because you have been exsposed to Castro,Chavez,Kim jung ILL,all the people we have pointed a finger at.now the chicken's have come home to roost.

    April 26, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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