James Baker on Torture Memos: We're Not a 'Banana Republic'

Former Secretary of State Baker decries torture memo probe, calling it a "banana republic" move.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Former Secretary of State James Baker, one of several past top diplomats who've called for the closing of Guantánamo Bay prison camps, said the call to probe the lawyers who wrote the so-called CIA torture memos is a "banana republic" move that would undermine President Obama's larger agenda. "The one thing that we need to stay away from at all costs is criminalizing our policy differences," he said, referring to Democratic efforts to investigate those who penned the memos justifying harsh interrogation methods under former President George W. Bush. "There's a strong flirtation to do that, but we ought to stay away from that." Speaking last night at a private Virginia girls' school, he said a probe would hurt Obama and make the country look silly. "I think it would suck a lot of the oxygen out of the air on some very important things that they are going to try and get done. But we are not a banana republic, and we ought not be in the business of criminalizing policy differences," he said. Baker joined virtually all living past secretaries of state last year to call for the closing of the prison camp. But yesterday, he acknowledged that there remains a problem of what to do with the accused terrorists there. "That's easier said than done," he said. "We don't really have a good solution to where we send these people. They are dangerous people. You can't just turn them loose. Most of their native countries won't take them back."

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