the inconvenience of Torture

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Key Democrat Senator objects to CIA torture probe


Published: August 30, 2009 

A key Democratic senator Sunday criticized a US Justice Department investigation into abusive CIA interrogations of Al-Qaeda detainees as poorly timed, signaling broadening opposition to the probe.

Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, raised her objections in a CBS television interview while former vice president Dick Cheney was blasting the probe on Fox television as "an outrageous political act."

Saying she, too, was "horrified" by a classified 2004 Central Intelligence Agency report that detailed abusive interrogation practices, Feinstein said she understood Attorney General Eric Holder's reasons for ordering a review of the interrogation program.

"However, I think the timing of this is not very good," Feinstein said...

She said the intelligence committee was already well along in conducting a bipartisan "total look" at the interrogation and detention techniques used on so-called high value detainees.

"And candidly, I wish that the attorney general had waited," she said.

"Every day something kind of dribbles out into the public arena. Very often it has mistakes. Very often it's half a story. I think we need to get the whole story together and tell it in an appropriate way," she said.

"A lot of things are being said -- 'Well, you know, torturing people is something that we did, but on the other hand, it produced all kinds of incredible information,'" she said.

"It did produce some information, but there is a great discrepancy, and I think a good deal of error out there in what people are saying it did produce," she added.

The CIA inspector general's report, parts of which were released last week, detailed the use of simulated drowning, mock executions, and threats of rapes of detainee family members in the course of the interrogations at secret CIA sites overseas.

Cheney, who was deeply involved in devising the previous administration's interrogation policies, said he would have no problem even with interrogations that went beyond specific legal authorizations.

"My sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives, in preventing further attacks against the United States, in giving us the intelligence we needed to go find Al-Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed."

Instead, he took aim at President Barack Obama for first assuring CIA officers they would not be prosecuted and then washing his hands of Holder's decision.

"I think it's an outrageous political act that will do great damage long term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions without having to worry about what the next administration's going to say about it," he said, in remarks first reported on Friday.

Cheney said he did not believe the investigation would be limited to CIA officers who went beyond the authorities granted at the time by the Justice Department.

"We had the president of the United States, President Obama, tell us a few months ago there wouldn't be any investigation like this, that there would not be any look-back at CIA personnel who were carrying out the policies of the prior administration.

"Now they get a little heat from the left wing of the Democratic Party and they're reversing course on that," Cheney said.

"The president is the chief law enforcement officer in the administration. He's now saying, well, this isn't anything that he's got anything to do with. He's up on vacation at Martha's Vineyard, and his attorney general is going back and doing something that the president said some months ago they wouldn't do."

Senator John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, defended Obama's approach as being "unbelievably bending in the direction of trying to be careful about what happens to national security."

"And in fact, I think there is a little bit of a tension between the White House itself and the lawyers in the Justice Department as they see the law and as what their obligation is," he said on ABC television.

"And in a sense, that's good. That's appropriate, because it shows that we have an attorney general who is not pursuing a political agenda, but who is doing what he believes the law requires him to do."

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This page contains a single entry published on August 30, 2009 11:51 PM.

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