Kyl Echoes Cheney’s Attack on Obama’s Guantánamo Approach

Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:47am

Updated: 11:50 a.m.

Last week’s national security debate between President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney spilled over into the Sunday news shows as the Senate’s number two Republican, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), joined Cheney in blasting the president’s claim that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques has served as a recruiting tool for would-be terrorists.

Kyl was one of several Members of Congress who went on the Sunday shows to discuss homeland security, Obama’s desire to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) charge that she was misled about interrogation tactics during a CIA briefing several years ago.

“It’s palpably false to suggest that the existence of [Guantánamo] created terrorists and yet the president gets away with that,— Kyl said on “Fox News Sunday.— “We haven’t done anything wrong there. We haven’t lost our values and Dick Cheney is absolutely right in what he said. … Those techniques, used on a few people not at Gitmo, produced the important intelligence that … saved lives—

But on NBC’s “Meet the Press,— Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) criticized Cheney for carrying a message of fear into the national security debate.

“I know what Vice President Cheney said but if you want insight into his analysis of intelligence and national security you should always remember four words: weapons of mass destruction,— Durbin said. “That was a bogus fear tactic used by Vice President Cheney years ago which has lead us into a war that has cost us 4,283 American lives we should recall on this Memorial Day weekend and a trillion dollars to the national debt and took the eye off of capturing Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida.—

Durbin said that Obama’s plans to close the Guantánamo Bay prison facility as well as his calls to abandon enhanced interrogation techniques have been “a break from the past that we needed.—

But Republicans continued to hammer the White House on those two subjects.

“I don’t know why it is better to have somebody in a so called supermax’ facility in say, Colorado, than it is to keep them in Guantánamo, a state-of-the-art facility that we built not too long ago that we built for the explicit purpose of holding these people,— Kyl said. “There is nothing wrong with the prison in Gitmo and there are a lot of problems … with bringing those people to the United States.—

On CNN’s “State of the Union,— Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) agreed that “there’s no reason to move them.—

“I don’t think you can convince the American people that you can bring these people from Gitmo and that [Americans] can be safe,— he said.

On “Fox News Sunday,— Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) didn’t rule out the possibility of closing the controversial Guantánamo Bay facility and said the White House should be given the opportunity to present a detailed plan on how to deal with the prisoners who are still incarcerated there.

“People are jumping on the president right now. I think they ought to wait until a plan comes out,— Nelson said.

And on CNN, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) punched back at Republican critics of Obama’s plan, saying she is convinced that Obama is doing everything possible to keep the United States safe and blaming the Bush administration’s tough interrogation policies — and Cheney specifically — for “this god-awful mess— that has allowed terrorist organizations to grow.

Boxer also defended Pelosi, noting that former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), a veteran of the Intelligence Committee, also felt the CIA briefings on interrogation tactics were vague and confusing.

“I’ll cast my lot with them,— Boxer said.

“This is so political to me,— she continued. “Knowing all the players, it’s clear what this is all about — [Republicans] want to get Nancy Pelosi. … They want Nancy Pelosi gone because she’s a very effective leader.—

But on “Meet the Press,— former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) again called on Pelosi to issue an apology to the CIA.

“What she did or did not learn in 2002 a House ethics investigation can determine,— Gingrich said. In the meantime, “if you want people to risk their lives to defend America it would be nice to occasionally support them rather than smear them. …All she’s got to do is go to the floor of the house and apologize she ought to say she exaggerated and what she said was not true about he CIA.—

In looking ahead to Obama’s soon-to-be announced Supreme Court appointment, both Nelson and Kyl discussed when it might be appropriate for a Senator to use a filibuster to block a nominee.

“In extraordinary circumstances, I think both Democrats and Republicans reserve the right to— filibuster, Kyl said.

Nelson, one of the “Gang of 14,— who brokered a Senate compromise on judicial appointments during the second term of the Bush administration, said he will be more concerned with judicial approach than with ideology when considering Obama’s pick.

“I don’t care if they’re liberal or conservative I just don’t want them to be activist,— Nelson said. “I think that’s the test, will they be an activist or not.—