Some Republicans are speaking out on the effectiveness of the enhanced interrogation techniques that they believe were key in helping to locate and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, parts with GOP lawmakers who are supporting the use of the interrogation method known as water boarding.
Senator Graham told me on Tuesday afternoon he was “somewhere between water boarding and advertising to the enemy the interrogation techniques they face.” Mr. Graham made it clear, however, he considered water boarding to be torture.
“This idea that we caught bin Laden as a result of water boarding, I think, is a misstatement. This whole concept about how we caught bin Laden is a lot of work over time by different people and putting the puzzle together. The idea of having the army field manual as the exclusive means to interrogate people is a mistake,” Mr. Graham explained. “It is on the website. They can go look at the army field manual. I’m somewhere between water boarding and advertising to the enemy the interrogation techniques they face.”
He later added, “I do not believe this is a time to celebrate water boarding. I believe this is a time to celebrate hard work. To say that this was about one technique diminishes the hard work and the good work that went into building this case over a period of years.”
Senator Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Independent and Chaiman of the Senate Homeland Security Committtee, avoided revealing too much on his thoughts of enhanced interrogation techniques and told me on Monday, “When you capture somebody in the War on Terror, they should be held as a prisoner of war. One of the reasons you do that is that detainees are very valuable sources of intelligence.”
Mr. Lieberman, like Mr. Graham, is critical of publicly positing military interrogation methods telling Fox News in 2009 CIA “I thought release of the memos was a bad idea. … It wasn’t necessary. It just helps our enemies. It doesn’t really help us. Again, the president can decide what tactics he wants the CIA or the military to use on people we capture, suspects of terrorism. But to let our enemies know what we are going to do or not do, that’s not a good idea.”
However, House Judiciary Committee member Steve King, Iowa Republican, disagreed and touted how enhanced interrogation methods was an essential part in the successful Navy SEAL mission that took out Osama bin Laden and cited the interrogation of self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) as an example and “common thread” that led to U.S. forces having the intel needed to locate and kill bin Laden. It has been reported that the CIA confirmed KSM was water boarded during the interrogation process to glean intelligence from him.
“I think that the intelligence that was gathered that was initiated and gathered under the Bush administration was the right thing,” Congressman Steve King, Iowa Republican, told me on Monday after he praised President Barack Obama for “doing the right thing” by ordering U.S. Navy SEALs on the successful mission that took out Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
By and large, Democrats on Capitol Hill were against using water boarding as an interrogation method. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat and ranking member of the House judiciary committee, told me he was still against the idea of water boarding terrorist detainees and believes the President should focus more on making allies in the Middle East.
Talking Points Memo is reporting that Senator Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, refuted the argument that Bush era enhanced interrogation techniques helped in the mission that took out Osama bin Laden:
“To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a wide-ranging press conference.
Moreover, Feinstein added, nothing about the sequence of events that culminated in Sunday’s raid vindicates the Bush-era techniques, nor their use of black sites — secret prisons, operated by the CIA.
“Absolutely not, I do not,” Feinstein said. “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used.”
Rep. King finds the push against enhanced interrogation ironic. “From a partisan perspective there’s a sweet irony. You know, I’ve been in these arguments for a long time. I’m on the judiciary committee and we’ve gone through the Patriot Act and the re-authorization of the Patriot Act and the battles under Pelosi in trying to hold the Patriot Act together,” he explained. “In fact, President Obama was against what he declared to be torture and postured himself around the rest of the world where America will not torture. And he defined water boarding as torture.”
Congressman Allen West, Florida Republican and former Army Colonel who served in Iraq, also supports enhanced interrogation of terrorist detainees that includes water boarding, saying: “If it keeps Americans alive, I’m all in. That’s the bottom line, because we are dealing with some very evil individuals and we need to be ready for the retaliatory attacks that are definitely coming because they have to show themselves to be relevant and viable.”