Torture Debate Dominates Sunday Shows

Posted April 26, 2009 at 9:32am

Updated: 12:27 p.m.Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) charged Sunday that the Obama administration’s decision to release photos of harsh interrogations of terrorist suspects will very likely help al-Qaida.“Anytime we give them more information— it will help in their drive for recruitment, Bond said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.— He compared the potential public relations victory for al-Qaida to the photos released of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison. Appearing on the same show, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said the fault lay not with President Barack Obama but with the Bush administration, which authorized the techniques. But Levin said that though he found the decisions of Bush administration officials to allow the tough interrogations “abominable,— he believes that the decision on whether to prosecute them should not be made by politicians. Instead, Levin suggested that an independent advisory group should advise the Justice Department on whether to charge the authors of the policies. Bond, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused Levin and Democrats who agree with him of trying to “criminalize— past policy decisions by mulling prosecution of the Bush officials. He argued that if Democrats didn’t like the interrogation methods authorized, they should have objected to them at the time, noting that Democratic leaders were allowed to review the techniques. In 2002, the top four leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence panels — including now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — were briefed on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques devised to make terrorism suspects talk. On CNN’s “State of the Union with John King,— Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she favors a policy change that would allow for briefing the full committee on such controversial matters. The full committee was not briefed until September 2006. “I am really strongly opposed to just certain Members being briefed on something this serious,— Feinstein said. “It seems to me the whole committee should be briefed at a given time. We’ve been very good at retaining security, and I think it’s a real disadvantage to the system just to have a few people briefed.—In a separate interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,— Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) concurred with Levin’s opposition to the Bush administration’s interrogation techniques but said the country must move on and not charge those who crafted the policies. “Are you going to prosecute people for giving bad legal advice?— he asked. McCain also suggested that “maybe there’s some element of settling of political scores here.— He added that it would be difficult in the future to get people to serve in such positions if they thought they might face criminal charges. Also appearing on “Face the Nation,— Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asserted that an independent “truth commission— should be established to look into the Bush administration’s practices, even though Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are resisting the idea. “Instead of having eight or ten committees … why not have a nonpartisan or bipartisan commission do it?— Leahy said. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,— White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated Obama’s desire to avoid a truth commission to look into interrogation techniques and said that the Intelligence Committee remains the best vehicle to review the matter. He also echoed Levin in saying legal decisions about possible prosecutions of Bush administration officials shouldn’t be made by political figures but by Justice Department officials. With tongue somewhat in cheek, Leahy also invited former Vice President Dick Cheney to testify before the Judiciary Committee. Cheney has been calling for the release of more memos that he says would show the interrogation techniques prevented further terrorist attacks. Leahy said he would be “delighted— to have him come to Capitol Hill and talk about it under oath. Levin also said a recent spike in violence in Iraq should not alter the timetables for withdrawal from the country. “Only the Iraqis can save themselves,— Levin said. “We cannot do it any longer.— Bond said decisions on withdrawals should be made by commanders on the ground.