The Senate began hearings Wednesday on recently released Bush administration documents related to harsh interrogation tactics for suspected terrorists.
“This is a major undertaking,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and Senate Judiciary Committee member. “The committee will review millions of pages of unredacted documents, phone records and letters.”
Mrs. Feinstein said the hearings will be a bipartisan effort and will focus on whether the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had accurate information on the questionable interrogation techniques and if the CIA “overstepped” the guidance give by Bush administration lawyers.
The Democrat-controlled Senate is conducting the hearings, despite President Obama’s preference for a closed-door inquiry by the Senate intelligence committee.
Among the first to testify Wednesday was Philip Zelikow, a State Department official in the Bush administration, who opposed the authorization and use of the techniques.
“These were cool, calculated, dehumanizing [methods] to collect information,” Mr. Zelikow said. “This was a mistake, [and] both parties were involved.”
The biggest news story on the issue now is whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, knew about the tactics and approved using them. Mrs. Pelosi says she learned about the tactics in 2002 but understood they would be used in the future.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, called the hearings a “political stunt.”
“What we do looking back may impede what we do going forward as the enemy plots its way back into our country,” he also said.
The hearings, titled “What Went Wrong: Torture and the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration,” are expected to be followed by similar House hearings.
Committee leaders also said the hearings will focus on legal issues, specifically the letters and memos from administration lawyers who approved waterboarding and other harsh tactics.
“We’ll hear all about that: shackling naked people … waterboarding,” said Sen Patrick J. Leahy Vermont Democrat and committee chairman.
The Justice Department has said the lawyers should not face criminal charges.