WASHINGTON (CNN) – Seven former CIA directors are urging President Barack Obama to stop the criminal investigation of people involved in the CIA's harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists.
In a letter sent to the president Friday, the former directors called on Obama to reverse Attorney General Eric Holder's decision last month to reopen an investigation that they say would put intelligence officers in "continuous jeopardy" and make them risk averse.
The letter was signed by former directors who served both Democratic and Republican presidents, including three who worked in the most recent Bush administration.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Vice President Dick Cheney had his facts wrong when he blasted Attorney General Eric Holder last week for launching an investigation into past CIA interrogation techniques, an administration official asserted Monday.
Holder's decision to review waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques was politically motivated, Cheney claimed in remarks broadcast on FOX News Sunday. Cheney made clear in the interview, conducted last Friday, that he believes President Barack Obama directed Holder to launch the review in response to pressure from left-wing Democrats.
But the administration official, who asked not to be identified, said, "The attorney general made a determination independently, based on the facts and the law."
The official also objected to Cheney's statement that "the president is the chief law enforcement officer in the land."
“This investigation is very appropriate,” Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “No one is above the law. This is not a political process. This is a legal process. It’s a legal process to find out whether the law was broken.”
Cantwell was answering Republican criticism – most notably from former Vice President Dick Cheney - that the recent decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to open an investigation into CIA interrogations was politically motivated and runs the risk of making the spy agency timid in tracking down terrorists who intend to do the country harm.
Related: CIA probe is political, Cheney says
“They’re making it so the people at the CIA are afraid to do anything,” said Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Frankly, it’s gone way too far,” Hatch told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
(CNN) - Former Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview broadcast Sunday that the Justice Department's decision to review waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques is politically motivated.
Cheney said he opposes the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to ask a former prosecutor to review CIA interrogations of high-profile terrorism suspects.
Cheney made clear he believes President Obama directed Holder to launch the review because the president is feeling pressure from left-wing Democrats. Cheney said the review will undermine the willingness of CIA personnel to conduct necessary operations.
"I think it's a terrible decision," Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday." "It's clearly a political move. There's no other rationale for why they're doing this."
He criticized Obama for allowing a review considering the president previously said that CIA operatives involved in the interrogations would not be prosecuted. "I think he's trying to duck responsibility for what's going on here, and I think it's wrong," Cheney said.
Updated: 2:43 p.m.
Gloria Borger is a senior political analyst for CNN, appearing regularly on CNN's "The Situation Room," "Campbell Brown," "AC360°" and "State of the Union With John King," as well as special event coverage.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - No matter which way you look at it, the question is painfully difficult: What - if anything - do we do about the post 9/11 behavior of some CIA agents who worked feverishly to interrogate prisoners they believed had information that could save American lives?
First, we now know definitively what we always suspected - that agent actions were sometimes abusive, perhaps even illegal, as they tried to obtain information.
The just-released Justice Department report shows, among other things, that agents choked one detainee repeatedly and threatened to kill another prisoner's children. Not pretty stuff.
But here's what we also know, thanks to another report (purposefully) released by the CIA as a response to the Justice document: Some interrogations worked.
According to these agency reports, chronicling 2004 and 2005, the intelligence community gleaned valuable information in real-time - like tracking down a terrorist network and securing key information from the notorious Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind.
The CIA's message is clear: Whatever we did helped us get what we needed to save lives. So get off our backs and let us do our jobs.
But here's the catch, and it's what complicates all of this: The CIA report does not draw a straight line between any specific interrogation methods and success. Indeed, the report says the "effectiveness" of any particular interrogation technique in gaining star-quality information "cannot be so easily measured."
That is an understatement.
So it's easy to see why the president, who doesn't need another political headache, was happy to toss the hot potato over to Attorney General Eric Holder for review. Holder is independent, the president reminded us. He is supposed to make decisions about whether to prosecute criminal cases without the president. That notion could provide a smidgeon of political cover, but it looks like it won't be enough.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A prominent Democratic strategist said Monday that the Justice Department probe of CIA interrogations during President George W. Bush's administration may turn into a political liability for President Obama.
"This is terrible politics for the Obama administration and the Democrats," James Carville, a Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, said Monday in an interview on 'The Situation Room.' "The country – like – really doesn't want this."
But, Carville added that the decision to open the probe into Bush-era interrogations of terrorism suspects is being driven by a belief that "we are a nation of laws."
Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist and CNN political contributor, agreed with Carville.
"Well, we are a nation of laws," Rollins said. "And, I think, obviously if there's anybody who violated laws, they should be punished."
But, Rollins noted that the probe runs the risk of sapping morale at the CIA "at a time that we need them to be on alert and moving forward."
The White House has issued the following statement Monday:
Statement from the Press Secretary on the Department of Justice Inquiry
The President has said repeatedly that he wants to look forward, not back, and the President agrees with the Attorney General that those who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance should not be prosecuted. Ultimately, determinations about whether someone broke the law are made independently by the Attorney General.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Justice Department has asked federal prosecutor John Durham to examine whether CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists were illegal, a source told CNN.
Full statement from the Justice Department after the jump
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama has approved the establishment of a special unit of terrorist interrogators based out of the FBI, senior administration officials said Monday.
The move comes in the wake of criticism of questionable CIA interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and the transfer of detainees to countries where torture is common.
A 2004 CIA report detailing the use of unauthorized interrogation methods - including the threatened use of a gun and an electric drill - is expected to be made public Monday.
The decision to place the FBI, rather than the CIA, in charge of the interrogations of suspected terrorists represents a major shift in U.S. national security policy.