April 26th, 2009
10:29 AM ET
9 years ago

There's nothing new in CIA memos, says Jarrett

The CIA memos are grabbing headlines – but they’re not news, says Jarrett.

The CIA memos are grabbing headlines – but they’re not news, says Jarrett.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - There’s nothing new in the interrogation memos whose release has stirred controversy, senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett told CNN Sunday.

The CIA memos described waterboarding and other tough interrogation methods on alleged al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah.

Jarrett said the United States is “a nation of laws,” and the administration had a legal requirement to release the documents.

"The techniques that were being used by the prior administration were well known," she told John King on State of the Union. "When the president came in office, he said we're not going to use those techniques anymore. That's not who we are as a country."

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

But the president is leaving any prosecution decisions up to the attorney general, she added.

Filed under: State of the Union • Valerie Jarrett
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Bob

    At least with the arguments on this issue, the GOP is moving away from being classified as the party of NO. They are saying YES to torture.

    April 26, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  2. big papa

    I keep hearing from the right wing conservative Bush-Cheney spin-meisters that ALL the memos (particularly ones that show the "successes" torture had) should be made public...

    ...I agree that ALL of the memos should be made public...

    ...but, the argument that BECAUSE torture MIGHT have garnered information that "kept Americans safe"...

    ...is a non-sequitir...

    ...TORTURE is ILLEGAL, waterboarding caused people during WWII to be tried and hanged!

    ...If one robs a bank AND GETS AWAY WITH IT, the act can be characterized as "successful", yet it remains ILLEGAL!

    April 26, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  3. But where are the documents showing....

    how many attacks were thwarted and how many American lives were possibly saved? Is this a one way investigation???

    And where are the memos confirming what Pelosi knew and when she knew it? And the same for the other Democrats on the Intelligence committees.

    If the White House lawyers are going to jail, we want to see Pelosi in the cell next to them.

    April 26, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  4. Bill ~ Down on the Bayou

    So, if there is nothing new in the documents why not release all the documents rather than being selective.
    As to the choice of prosecuting or not prosecuting, and obama leaving that decision up to attorney general Holder. If Holder wants to keep his job as AG he will prosecute. He doesn't make decisions, he carries out orders.

    April 26, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. Ken in NC

    CIA Memos. Torture debates all over the country. People are forgetting the main issue here. Now I agree that if information gathered from interrogation that saves American lives is good but that does not either justify or make it ok to torture. The question the country is debating is if torture is legal. Laws have defined torture and ruled that torture is illegal. President Obama has ordered torture to stop but he does not have the authority to say who will or will not be charged or put on trial for breaking the law. That is the job of the AG. I do understand why no president would want to see trials of the previous administration as it would open up every out going administration to being tried for violating federal laws while it was in power and it would make it hard for that administration to get support from the minority party in the day to day operations of our government.

    The memos being released will serve only to inflame the public that is not used to having access to documents of this nature. Now some will say it is ok to torture if it saves lives but it is wrong for others to torture our people when captured. That's having your cake and eating it too and that is impossible.

    If torture is to be against the law then we must find other ways to extract information. Just because others do it does not mean it is ok for us to do it.

    April 26, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  6. Bob Toano

    The administration is finding out just how difficult it is to handle this tortuous "torture" issue. There doesn't seem to be any easy answers. The democrats seem to be out for blood. The Bush protectors are trying to defend an indefensible position. The country has a host of issues that the president is tackling. At almost any other time I would say let's investigate this, have a commission, congressional hearings, etc.. Not now. We have an economy in crisis, a broken health care system, two wars that we think we might win, a military that has been fighting for a long time, global warming that finally the conservatives are beginning to realize, and a president that actually wants to do something. Getting mired down in torturegate won't solve these problems. I am more concerned that my kids and grandkids have a safer,cleaner, and more stable world than I am about Dick Cheneys legacy. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and that crowd have to live with what they did to our country. They can bluster, contort, or even lie, but at the end of the day they can't escape the fact that they didn't serve us well during the Bush administration. The facts will come out, the story will be told. Cheneys crowd knows that and it will not give them comfort. When Presiden Ford pardoned Nixon, it didn't stop the world from its condemnation of Watergate. The democrats don't have their hands clean in this affair. If they didn't explicitly know this torture was ongoing they should have. President Obama has vowed to change Washington. He will have a better chance of doing that if we move on and let the historians tell the story. My hunch is they will get the story out fast and credibly. Those that are guilty of perpetuating torture may never see the inside of a jail cell, but they know the truth, and that must be a terrible burden to live with.

    April 26, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. C. Bass

    Cheney wants to justify torture by saying that it works. Does robbing a bank put money in your pocket? It certainly does but it is not legal. Should we abolish the international torture treaty if we find that it opens up a wealth of information? No, certainly not. Whether or not torture worked is not a justification for torture. It is an illegal immoral act. We don't defeat evil by becoming evil.

    April 26, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  8. Jake

    prosecute them and throw them all in JAIL!

    April 26, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. spring flowers

    America dose not torture, this is something the republicans over looked, i can no longer watch john king on state of the union, he should move to faux news.

    April 26, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. mary

    It is clear that the new administration are putting us all in danger with not supporting our military and the CIA. Obamba needs to stop being a actor and become a President of his word. I wish I COULD take my
    vote back He has become a threat to the US security

    April 26, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. VON BISMARK,Vienna.

    Are we talking about the criminality of a crime or its effectiveness? If tortured worked for the Americans under Cheney's watch then the US must pay compensation to the families of the Japanese who were executed for the same crime on American soldiers.Nobody is above the law.

    April 26, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  12. Curled up in a ball

    Bush, Cheney, Condi Rice, Rumsfeld and Colin Powell are in deep trouble now. They falsified evidence for war in Iraq and they used "rendition" to torture possibly innocent civilians. I think the international community will want war crime trials soon.

    April 26, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  13. Bill

    So, who says this is torture. A bunch of people that know nothing about it. Slapping someone on the face, or pouring some water over them (to simulate drowning – not put them in any physical danger) is questionable as far as torture goes. This who thing is being used to take the focus off the mess that Obama is creating with his massive socialistic programs that will banckrupt the country in the next 10-15 years.

    April 26, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  14. Halbert Albert

    Are we still AMERICANS, or did the Cheney Torture Posse turn us into a nation of FASCISTS?

    April 26, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  15. Henry

    The issue is the legality of torture.

    When one cannot defind the legality of torture, they rely on the emotional issue of whether torture gained information. That is an odd argument.

    Let's say we cut off someone's hands and gain the information we want, does that justify the cutting off of the hands? Absurd.

    April 26, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  16. Scott AZ

    Sad to say but the country is in the hands of socialist wimps at least until 2013.

    April 26, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. Had It

    I agree that John King is not well-qualified to present the "State of the Union". I've always thought him strictly republican, and he isn't president - he can't give us the state of the union.

    Watch re-runs on some silly tv show – it's less prejudiced.

    April 26, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  18. angryeditor

    Need we say more?
    The Republicans are looking more like the Nazi party – grown senile and wheelchair bound! 2 wrongs could never never make a right. Obama has done the right thing. And try as you may one right could never never make a wrong!

    April 26, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  19. marquis


    I completely agree with your views on torture...i voted for President Obama and support him 100% but do not think these techniques are torture...I have seen worse on fear factor. But the President is on the right track with the economy.

    April 26, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  20. Paul H

    The United States actually figured out a way to aggressively interrogate someone in ways that a person can actually walk a way from. We even train our own military using these techniques. We don't remove finger nails, or use knives to cut on people, or push bamboo chutes up someones finger nails. In the world of war, or dealing with terrorist, we have developed ways of dealing with these guys in ways they can still live their lives.
    We are becoming a very weak nation in the eyes of the world. I know this media will portray it other wise. But this is nothing more than going after the previous Administration.
    I didn't like the Bush administration, and I doubt if I really would have liked a McCain administration. But what's happening now is crazy. I feel like I'm in toontown, and the Loony toons are in charge.
    Someone needs to step forward, and fix this mess that is our government, (Note: Whole government, not just one party) and a media outlet needs to really start being our eyes, and ears instead of a left, or right wing mouth piece.

    April 26, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  21. Tired of revisionist history

    Jarrett is totally wrong when she says "torture is not who we are". Doing WHATEVER it takes to win a conflict and preserve the safety of our citizens is EXACTLY who we are. Some of our presidents have done the following:
    * Lincoln – Suspended Habeas Corpus
    * FDR – Sent Americans of Japanese descent to concentration camps
    * Truman – Dropped nuclear weapons (twice) on civilian populations
    * WIlson – Used poison gas on enemy troops
    * Numerous presidents – Massacred entire indian populations
    The list goes on and on.

    April 26, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  22. Bilderbuddy

    The fact that the world is in complete turmoil and to fuel the fire of terrorists is a total rookie move.

    What would happen if these pictures started riots? Not just here, but in some other country harming other?

    These politicians are completely removed from us everyday commoners.

    Besides, all it did was show how much Pelosi is another lying politician like the rest.

    April 26, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  23. DMTea

    These terrorists are not afforded the Genenva convention as no law protects them. These terrorist tortured, maimed, killed American soldiers and countless citizens of Iraq, and Afghanistan. And now we offer them to be victims. How short our memories have become and political our media and groups have made this a witch hunt. Good luck in protecting America as we are now perceived weak in the middle east.

    April 26, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. Andrea

    Cheny, Rumsfeld and Bush certainly don't fear their conscience in "having to live with" knowing they lied and approved torture. However, if we let them crawl off to their caves in peace and not demand an independent prosecutor investigate these war crimes then we, as Americans, are complicit.
    These tortures were only being used in an attempt to justify the lies that Bush and his administration used to start the war in Iraq. How dare scum dog Cheney accuse President Obama for being unpatriotic and not keeping our country safe. Cheney should be tried for war crimes and put in jail!

    April 26, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  25. indiana voter

    All you liberal Democrats have such wishful hopes that Americans will turn against themselves and start throwing former Presidents and their staffs in jail. How sad that it is because of their actions to keep you safe, that you are allowed to say such stupid things, and you don't care that you are stupid as long as you have a liberal in the White House. Your hatred for Bush still continues to blind you of any common sense. If Obama is any kind of leader, he will make the decision himself to prosecute or not. He won't vote "present" again and leave the decision up to Holder. Then again, he is the "Waffler-in-Chief." It is too bad that the Democrats' standards are too low to care.

    All this administration has shown so far is how gullible the American people are in believing campaign hype. It also shows how the voters usually panic during economic downturns and start voting in anyone regardless of their qualifications. Oh well, you get what you vote for. Anyone who disagrees with me, I just mark it up to your liberal stupidity, but you can try to respond. It is always quite comical to read your responses.

    April 26, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
1 2 3