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. jason

    I would have gladly done what the intelligence community did even if I knew I would go to jail. To protect my family, communtiy, and nation I would go to any means nessesary. If it were not for the enhanced techniques the Broklyn Bridge and LA would have been their next targets not to mention we would not have caught the master minds of September 11th. I do not agree with all the techniques used. I personally have been through all of these techniques in my training with the military. They suck but they do not cause bodily harm. They rattle your brain a little but nothing long term. If rattling a few bad guys, who would cut your head of as your family watches, is inappropriate then letting innocent people come under harms way means nothing to you.

    April 26, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. Richard Neffson

    Republicans, Ronald Reagan was the one who committed the United States to prosecuting those individuals who committed or authorized the use of torture. Torture was committed by the United States because as John McCain himself has acknowledged waterboarding is torture. Therefore if we are a nation of laws those who violate the laws must be prosecuted.

    April 26, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  3. Palermo

    The release of the memos does not, as Sen. Graham claims, alert our enemies to what is coming their way. It tells the world that we are not barbarians. I am still astonished at the people who continue to support the use of torture. Whether it works or not is absolutely irrelevant. Where does a government draw the line, and who decides?...only use it against "enemies" or foreigners? History has shown over and over again that when this door opens, it always eventually leads to governments using these tactics against their own people.

    If we need to torture our enemies to win, we are already so morally bankrupt that we deserve to lose.

    April 26, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. Unshrub

    All these Impotent republicans know what to do is whine.

    April 26, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. Andrea

    The U.S. is a government for the people, by the people and that especially includes those who aren't elected or appointed lying, criminal government officials. We have the right to know what our government is up to behind closed doors – especially when it's illegal! In 2004 it was reported that we were water boarding prisoners – no new news. What is new are the abhorrent details. The GOP is only trying to protect those who should be investigated and charged with war crimes – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest.

    April 26, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  6. Richard Larson

    There was a time when Sen. Graham very publicly dithered, tip-toed, and waffled when it came to making a principled stand against the so-called "inhanced interrogation techniques" to be used by U.S. operatives in the "War Against Terror." That was during Senate hearings on the criminal activities at Abu Ghraib. He expressed his legal reservations, but gave in to pressure from the Bush administration when it came to making a moral stand. I, for one, who was once a professional soldier, was extremely disappointed that a man who had participated in Courts Martial, both as a trial lawyer and a judge; and who was very well acquainted with historical Army Standard Operating Procedures and the Laws of War, would allow himself to be so completely beholden to political expediency as to betray basic moral principles as he did that day.

    Given Graham's history of pandering to political expediency over a principled moral stand, I have difficulty in believing that he can be believed in anything he would have to say now on torture.

    April 26, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  7. Beth

    Actually, Graham was against waterboarding. But he is also against releasing the documents, as were 5 former CIA heads, including the current one. Yes, Transparency is a good thing, but there are some things that just need to be kept secret. Revealing information to terrorists is one of them.
    All you people crying "toruture this, torture that", think about one thing. Would you waterboard someone to save your own child? If you answered yes, then you can't fault someone for doing the same. If you answered no, then you are a sick human being.

    April 26, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  8. IndyVoter

    First of all CNN, the Senators did not "RIP" the President (I saw the broadcast. Enough with sensationalist headlines). They merely disagreed with him and later in the same interview, Sen. Feinstein and Leiberman praised him for the great job that he's done so far as President. Tell the whole story please.

    April 26, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  9. MK

    Will those SAME senators "rip" Dick Cheney for getting the memos that he wants released so he can attempt to prove why he committed war crimes?

    April 26, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  10. political junkie in nc

    I am a democrat and proud of it.

    Lucy, I have to agree with you. I have been watching John King's program for a few weeks now. His reporting and questioning (especially in those segments where he ges to talk to the people) is always slanted with a hint of his republican views. So much for fair and balanced. Oh, that's that other network/C NN; isn't it?

    NOT !!!!

    April 26, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  11. Common Sense

    Sooner or later it may dawn on the old republicans that when they start to blather ... rational people just turn off and tune out.

    They had their chance to lead 2000-2008 and we can all see how well that turned out: they had their choice of candidate for President and selected McCain/Palin – whom no one is wishing was in office.

    No new ideas from republicans in this century and very few useful ones from the last century. same old – same old ...

    April 26, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. Frank

    WOW! Republican United States senators endorse torture, or at least not telling about it we did torture. Has any one of them stepped away from partisanship and sucking up to Fox News long enough to think about what their comments really mean? Trust me when I say that the Romans used "enhanced interrogation techniques" on Jesus. How morally empty is the Republican party's issue position?

    April 26, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  13. DawnS

    Why didn't Feinstein take any action when Democrats took over Congress in January 2007? She could have stopped the torture back then. Feinstein is just an opportunist who has no principle and is just bending to the prevailing wind.

    April 26, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  14. susan

    These cover-up Republicans make me sick.
    The Constitution means nothing to them nor the morality of our people–just protecting their elective butts.
    As to Lieberman, his loyalty is to Israel and we know from Gaza what they stand for.

    April 26, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  15. morefromLA

    Lindsey, get a grip. We're telling the world precisely what is NOT going to come their way. Torture is no longer a (ineffective) way for us to go about defending our country.

    April 26, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. I WONDER

    Lets stop and think a minute here... About using torture....

    WHAT IF.....

    The United States of America said to the rest of the world.........

    HELL YES WE ARE GOING TO USE TORTURE,,,,, IF YOU TAKE ONE OF OUR SOLDIERS AND HARM THEM, IF YOU BOMB OUR CITIZENS, IF YOU DESTROY OUR MONITARY SYSTEM, IF YOU AND/OR YOUR COUNTRY DO ANYTHING TO CAUSE OUR COUNTRY AND/OR IT'S CITIZENS HARM IN ANY WAY YES, WE WILL TORTURE YOU AND YOUR KIND UNTIL YOUR EYES FALL OUT AND YOUR EARS POP...... SO JUST GO AHEAD AND TRY SOMETHING SO WE CAN COME AFTER YOU......

    I wonder how that would work as an agression stopper... Of course then, the United States could only protect our own shores, the rest of the world would have to look out for them selves.. But I really wonder how that would work...

    As least the rest of the world would know we were going to get to the bottom of who tried to do us in and they would know we were coming after them...

    April 26, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  17. kate

    Who among the Republicans will have the courage to say that it is important to know WHO thought they could wiggle around the Geneva Convention accords?The Republicans seem ALL to want to distance themselves from this by saying, "it's in the past," "let's move on," "silly to bring it up." The people of the U.S. want accountability and transparency - we want it in government's use of our tax money, we want it when bad policies are enacted in our name or on our behalf. Many of the comments I have heard in favor of using "enhanced interrogation" mention that it helped keep America safe. Then why would they want to disown their involvement in keeping America safe? Why not say "I ordered this because I .....to keep America safe?"

    April 26, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  18. Frozone

    Torture is not a political philosophy–it's a crime. The only way to move forward is to respect the laws of this country and prosecute all those involved in torture.

    April 26, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  19. Di/Allentown

    So we don't prosecute anyone – no accountability for the US. What protection does that give our military should they be captured. The United States can do it and get away with it – so can we. Our soldiers are the ones that will suffer. Can't they see this???

    If the law is the law and other have been prosecuted for doing the same thing, where do we get off saying we can do it and not be held accountable? Call it enhanced interrogation if you want, it was torture. That's just the Bush Adminstration "word games" of the last eight years.

    No this isn't about politics, this is about morals. The US is not above the law.

    Besides, Cheney wants the memos released, what's all the hoopla about with Graham?

    April 26, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  20. artemisios

    "Enhanced interrogation" simply lacks the gravitas - as one would expect from a mere translation. We should go back to the original German phrase Verschärfte Vernehmung so popular in the 30s and 40s.

    April 26, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  21. Steve in Louisville

    It would be news if the RePIGlican senators thought anything Obama did was a good idea.

    April 26, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  22. Sun City West

    The Swine Flue epidemic may be as symbolic of the age as it is frightening as a disease. You can hear the gang of eight squealing from wrath; being implicated as a conspirator to commit torture does not enhance ones re-election prospects. How fine it is to receive a fresh glimps of transperancy. Hopefully, we have arrived at the age when closed source agendas and “Let Them Eat Cake” politics is replaced by public dialogue and concencous or the sharpened edge of a legal guillotine.

    April 26, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. Linda

    I have just one question for all of you people that think pouring water on someone's head in order to try to find out important information that would save American lives. If you knew that one of your loved ones was in danger of being killed by some of these TERRORIST–would you do anything within your power to save them???? If you say that you wouldn't, I don't think you would be telling the truth. I would do ANYTHING that I could to save my loved ones life. President Obama has weakened our National Defense and I am afraid that American lives will be lost because of this. His job is not to protect TERRORIST but the American people. Please ask yourself–What would I do to save my loved one??

    April 26, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  24. Charleston Native

    I voted against Graham and the other republicans during the presidential election.

    I hope more like minded people will join me in doing that again at the next election. We almost voted them out. I think the final numbers were 55% republican, 45% democrat here in SC. It's hard to get democratic votes here in the south, folks. The good-old-boy mentality is really ingrained into the people that live here.

    The day we get rid of Graham and our governor Mark Sanford, we will be better off.

    April 26, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Alberta Treadway

    I ask you to consider this! Is it ok for my grandson to torture the bully on the play ground because he is hurting him an his freinds? Now, if you said torture is ok, Will you pay my grandson bail out of jail for assaulting another child, or will you work with social service when they throw him in a boys home for abusive behavior? Will all you who said it was ok to torture, explain to my grandson why he has to go to jail or a boys home for torturing another human and no one in this last administration has to be held accountable for it? Why does money/power give a free pass to breaking our laws, while the common/ every day folk gets jail?

    April 26, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
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