April 26th, 2009
12:49 PM ET
11 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. Bob

    McCain said: "This was just bad advice (okaying torture) by Bush administration lawyers....and they should not be criminalized for using bad judgement"......Really.... Well, using that same logic, I guess the Nuremberg trials should never have proceeded in charging the Nazi with war crimes and crimes against humanity....

    April 26, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  2. Carl Justus

    What do they say about the fact that we sentenced to death the Japanese after world war II for waterboarding our military??????

    April 26, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. lovable liberal

    Republicans prefer secret government and secret "law" to excuse their basic unwillingness to be bound by the Constitution.

    April 26, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  4. Markus

    Obama is like a reverse moth. Instead of flying toward the light he flies away from heat. As soon as he realized that Pelosi and other vocals Dims wanted to go after the previous administration he promptly reversed course and delegated the decision to Eric Holder (holder of the bag?). That way his (high school?) peer group is appeased and, hopefully, Holder takes the fall if history views this move as a national security disaster. Barack: "The buck stops here... with Eric." LOL!

    April 26, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  5. T Mckinley

    Breaking News: Senators rip White House for telling the American people, and the world, the TRUTH.

    OMG! The White House telling people the TRUTH!

    THAT is change!

    April 26, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  6. Gary

    Waterboarding under the Bush Administration, rendition under Clinton, bombing Pakistan by Bush and Obama, Spying on Iran, North Korea etc, Picking up Somoli pirates these are all questionable actions in complicated circumstances that international lawyers can debate on both sides.

    The point is that after 9/11 we all were very worried, the Bush administration took some extreme actions to keep us safe and he did keep us safe. Stop the monday morning quarterbacking and move on. Republicans and Democrats in congress were briefed and approved these measures. I think that we did the right thing.

    April 26, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. yves anthony

    There we go again, the iraq situation or Iraq war that put the republican party out of power is in the front line again. The more time the republican politicians will try to justify the reason for the torture or tactics, whatever one wants to call it, more they are putting the foot in the mouth, and more despicable will look. Remember I said it before and I want to say it again: Americans are smart and will no longer take those stupid remarks by the reuplican politicians. I am an independent voter and voted for president Obama, althought I've voted republican in the past. I believe that I am part of the silent majority ( Independent). Yves Anthony Naples Florida

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