Lawmakers Debate Release of Torture Memos

Posted April 19, 2009 at 9:16am

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — Armed Services Committee members and former prosecutors — agreed Sunday that CIA officers should not be held criminally liable for harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects conducted under guidelines set out in four Justice Department memos released last week.Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,— the two Senators sharply disagreed over whether the Bush-era memos from the Justice Department to the CIA’s top attorney should have been released by the Obama administration.McCaskill said the release helps the country move beyond “a dark chapter— and that the harsh interrogations had become “a recruitment tool— for terrorists. She said she didn’t want to “look in the rearview mirror— but that the legal advice drafted by four DOJ lawyers should be closely examined.One of the authors, Jay Bybee, now sits on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, while another, John Rizzo, is the CIA’s acting general counsel.Graham said the CIA officers who conducted the interrogations “should be left alone— — and so should the lawyers who drafted the guidelines. “Criminalizing legal advice is a very bad precedent,— Graham said.Graham also said releasing the memos gave terrorists a look at the government’s playbook for handling detainees and “overly informed our enemies.— He added, “I don’t care to be transparent with al-Qaida.—McCaskill responded by saying, “Al-Qaida knew this was going on.—Graham drafted legislation, along with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others, to end practices such as waterboarding. The release of the memos provoked debate elsewhere Sunday morning.“I think the administration was wrong to release these memos. America is less safe now,— Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.—“The president sent fear throughout the intelligence community,— Ensign added, charging that officials now fear facing charges for carrying out controversial interrogation methods.But Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said that “these tactics were already in the public eye.— She pointed to the Obama administration’s pledge not to press charges against intelligence officers, adding that “the front-line agents will not be prosecuted.—