By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
When you look at all the information that's come out about "enhanced interrogation" over the last week or so, a couple of things strike you. First, that there was a lot of time and energy spent by a lot of professionals—from Justice lawyers to CIA officials to State Department leadership to military doctors—on this issue. This was not a seat-of-the-pants operation by a bunch of freelancers. Years of memos and meetings took place on waterboarding, and there's quite a paper trail. Second, it's clear from that paper trail that honest men and women can disagree. There's just a lot of gray and I think the Bush administration was honestly trying to figure out where the line should be. Rich Lowry put it well: "As a realist, I think those kind of tough calls in murky areas are inevitable in foreign affairs, and especially in a shadowy war against lawless extremists. Sometimes there are no good or easy answers."
But that hasn't stopped many from people from second-guessing those tough calls, and many of those second-guessers are folks in Congress who knew and approved of all this. Luckily, we may have an end to the hypocrisy: Peter Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Intelligence—someone who was well-briefed throughout the whole decision-making process and knows exactly who on the left approved—writes this morning:
It was not necessary to release details of the enhanced interrogation techniques, because members of Congress from both parties have been fully aware of them since the program began in 2002. We believed it was something that had to be done in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to keep our nation safe. After many long and contentious debates, Congress repeatedly approved and funded this program on a bipartisan basis in both Republican and Democratic Congresses.
As if that isn't enough to stop the nonsense on Capitol Hill, Hoekstra wants members of Congress calling for public hearings to keep in mind three things:
- He's asked the director of national intelligence to provide the names of all members of Congress who were ever briefed on enhanced interrogation.
- He's asking that the memos listing the successes of the enhanced interrogation methods be released now as well, to be fair to both sides, and
- He wants to include in any public review an assessment of "the likely damage done to U.S. national security by Mr. Obama's decision to release the memos over the objections of Mr. Panetta and four of his predecessors."
Hoekstra is rightly concerned about the message this is sending to our enemies. He joins a host of defense, intelligence, and foreign policy leaders who are just as worried about hard-working public servants in the intelligence field who will be reluctant to either formulate policy or give frank opinions to our elected leaders for fear of future prosecution. Clearly that will be the most damaging result of all of this, in the long run. Does President Obama really want that to be his legacy?
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