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January 07, 2009

Democrats and "Torture:" In for a Penny, In for a Pound

Yes, by all means, let us get to the bottom of who was responsible for this unconstitutional, illegal, barbaric regime of "torture."

The briefings [about aggressive interrogation techniques of high-level Al Qaeda, including, specifically, waterboarding] were first available to the Chairmen and ranking Members of the Intelligence Committees. From 2003 through 2006, that gang of four included Democrats Bob Graham and John D. Rockefeller in the Senate and Jane Harman in the House, as well as Republicans Porter Goss, Peter Hoekstra, Richard Shelby and Pat Roberts. Senior staffers were sometimes present. After September 2006, when President Bush publicly acknowledged the program, the interrogation briefings were opened to the full committees.

If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding. And if Democrats thought it was illegal or really found the CIA's activities so heinous, one of them could have made a whistle-blowing floor statement under the protection of the Constitution's speech and debate clause. They'd have broken their secrecy oaths and jeopardized national security, sure. But if they believed that Bush policies were truly criminal, didn't they have a moral obligation to do so? In any case, the inevitable media rapture over their anti-Bush defiance would have more than compensated.

Ms. Harman did send a one-page classified letter in February 2003 listing her equivocal objections to the interrogation program. She made her letter public in January 2008 after the CIA revealed that it had destroyed some interrogation videotapes. After lauding the CIA's efforts "in the current threat environment," she noted that "what was described raises profound policy questions and I am concerned about whether these have been as rigorously examined as the legal questions." Ms. Harman also vaguely wondered whether "these practices are consistent with the principles and policies of the United States," but she did not condemn them as either torture or illegal.

This wasn't the only time a politician filed an inconsequential expression of anti-antiterror protest. Mr. Rockefeller famously wrote a letter to Vice President Dick Cheney objecting to warrantless wiretapping, but then stuck it (literally) in a drawer. Like Ms. Harman, only after the program was exposed did he reveal his missive to show he'd been opposed all along, though he'd done nothing about it.

According to Mr. Goss, some Members at the time even wondered if our terror fighters were harsh enough as they tried to extract potentially live-saving information. Mr. Goss, who later served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006, told the Washington Post in 2007 that, "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing. And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

The article is about Democrats' likely push for "Truth Commissions" to get to the bottom of the "Torture Regime." As is common, Congress will be looking to scapegoat others for its own decisions.


More at Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.



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posted by Ace at 11:29 AM

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