Hoekstra: Capitol Hill a glass house on interrogations

posted at 8:44 am on April 23, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) challenges both his colleagues on Capitol Hill and the Barack Obama administration to honest debate on the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah in today’s Wall Street Journal.  Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, accuses Obama of dishonesty by selectively releasing memos from the program — and he accuses Congress of cowardice by not admitting their own role in sanctioning the interrogations.  He wants names and dates made public in this debate, a prospect that will likely chill enthusiasm on the Hill:

Unfortunately, on April 21, Mr. Obama backtracked and opened the door to possible prosecution of Justice Department attorneys who provided legal advice with respect to the enhanced interrogations program. The president also signaled that he may support some kind of independent inquiry into the program. It seems that he has capitulated to left-wing groups and some in Congress who are demanding show trials over this program.

Members of Congress calling for an investigation of the enhanced interrogation program should remember that such an investigation can’t be a selective review of information, or solely focus on the lawyers who wrote the memos, or the low-level employees who carried out this program. I have asked Mr. Blair to provide me with a list of the dates, locations and names of all members of Congress who attended briefings on enhanced interrogation techniques.

Any investigation must include this information as part of a review of those in Congress and the Bush administration who reviewed and supported this program. To get a complete picture of the enhanced interrogation program, a fair investigation will also require that the Obama administration release the memos requested by former Vice President Dick Cheney on the successes of this program.

An honest and thorough review of the enhanced interrogation program must also assess 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. Such a review should assess what this decision communicated to our enemies, and also whether it will discourage intelligence professionals from offering their frank opinions in sensitive counterterrorist cases for fear that they will be prosecuted by a future administration.

We have known for years that Congressional leadership had at least seen some footage from waterboarding, and had unanimously approved it, with one exception after the interrogations had already ceased.  Hoekstra has identified himself as one of those attendees, and Jane Harman would have been another; Nancy Pelosi has been confirmed as another as well.  If more names in Congress get released, especially among those today demanding prosecution, get identified with specific dates and the procedures discussed, and their commentary during the briefings, shouldn’t they also get prosecuted for “war crimes”? After all, as Hoekstra says, they approved the effort.

Releasing the OLC memos only provided part of the picture — the part Obama wanted to use for political purposes.  For some reason, Politico reports, he thought that would be the end of it — and got caught unaware when it created an explosion of recrimination:

President Barack Obama’s attempt to project legal and moral clarity on coercive CIA interrogation methods has instead done the opposite — creating confusion and political vulnerability over an issue that has inflamed both the left and right.

In the most recent instance, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair acknowledged in a memo to the intelligence community that Bush-era interrogation practices yielded had “high-value information,” then omitted that admission from a public version of his assessment.

That leaves a top Obama administration official appearing to validate claims by former Vice President Dick Cheney that waterboarding and other techniques the White House regards as torture were effective in preventing terrorist attacks. And the press release created the impression the administration was trying to suppress this conclusion.

The president, who has said he wants to focus on the future rather than litigate the past, also opened himself to distraction and attack by retracting the earlier assurance by top officials that they had no plans to prosecute lawyers for former President George W. Bush who approved the “enhanced interrogation” program.

A Democratic strategist close to the White House said: “The president looked resolute, and like he had threaded the needle perfectly on the substance: The heat from the right was preposterous, and the heat from the left was manageable. But now they look like the scarecrow, pointing in both directions. They got the policy right, but they look confused and beaten down by critics.”

When he released the memos, Obama apparently didn’t anticipate that calling the OLC complicit in a war crime would generate two reactions.  The first would criticize Obama for failing to prosecute people who he thinks committed crimes, and the second would get angry over Obama only telling part of the story.  Before the release, he only had a small group of people criticizing him for putting the issue in the past, and now he has everyone angry over his dishonest approach to the issue.

Obama can’t stick with the position that the most culpable people in the interrogation were the lawyers who responded to a request for clarification on the law.  They neither ordered, approved, or conducted the interrogations.  Legal culpability is the weakest for them if any crime was committed, and it’s frankly cowardice to only attack the OLC.  If crimes were committed, then members of Congress, the White House, CIA leadership and the interrogators are the ones who have to answer for them, and we can only know that when all of the data is revealed.  If Obama’s not willing to do that, then he never should have opened that can of worms in the first place.

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Amateur hour indeed. In fact the one-hour statute of limitations has expired on Obama’s last statement. My prediction is that they will now drop this like a hot potato now that they’ve seen the outcry. And if any prosecution starts, watch moderates/independents turn on TOTUS, leaving him with only left-wing nuts in his camp.

Christian Conservative on April 23, 2009 at 12:24 PM

This is all for show to divert attention elsewhere. Does anyone really think that this administration wants real public war crime trials where all the information will need to be ponied up. The only way trials happen is after 2012 otherwise it takes down this administration. As it is they are hardening attitudes and it raises the possibility of a shift in the legislative branch in 2010.
So the question is what’s in the left hand that the right hand is trying to distract us from.

chemman on April 23, 2009 at 12:26 PM

Mr Cool thought he could have it both ways. Well if he doesn’t kill the left wing moonbats on this, both he and the Democrats had better be prepared to bend over. It’s gonna hurt!

GarandFan on April 23, 2009 at 12:30 PM

I believe Obama is whacko. He’s come to truly believe in his being the Messiah. He can say, and do what he wants, and for some that is acceptable, and good enough. Unfortunately for him, there are millions of us out here, that won’t let him just slide by. He needs to be held accountable , as would any president.

capejasmine on April 23, 2009 at 1:03 PM

Obama should be impeached for aiding the enemy in a time of war when we have men and women in harm’s way.

djn on April 23, 2009 at 1:35 PM

I cannot imagine that he didn’t know what would result when he released the memo. That notion, which I also read on Politico, simply doesn’t add up. His base has been screaming “war criminals!” and demanding prosecution for 2 years.

So I don’t buy that in the least.

Not only should those who approved in Congress be on the hot seat, regardless of party affiliation, but I’d suggest to CIA to join together and threaten to resign in mass.

This is not a situation that should be met with just words.

AnninCA on April 23, 2009 at 1:35 PM

How many times do you call Obama a rookie, or a “whacko”, or an amateur, disillusioned, ignorant, arrogant, foolish, unaware, two-faced, flip-flopper, liar, leftist, socialist, a non-leader, ego-maniac, empty suit, or all the other names that he is becoming familiar with.
The fact is, he is not worthy to be the president, people who initially supported him are getting tired of his antics, and the only thing keeping him from being absolutely destroyed by the press is the color of his skin…he is proving himself, day by day, as being the least effective leader ever foisted on us.
His 100 days, will be passed over for fear of what a real analysis will bring…

right2bright on April 23, 2009 at 1:41 PM

complete lightweight… We’re so screwed.

liquidflorian on April 23, 2009 at 1:45 PM

Guys, let’s be honest about this. This is not about torture, it’s about getting rid of Bush, Cheney and anyone perceived to have been an influential part of the Bush administration. Had the Clinton administration been the ones in power when 9/11 occurred, and had they done what Bush did, (probably not likely of course, because they have no guts), do you really think the lefties would have cared if they tortured anyone? It would have been the thing we had to do, if a Democrat president had done it.

Bottom line, Bush being out of office is not enough for them. He needs to be beaten, bruised, humiliated, then thrown in jail, and until this happens they will never be happy. He is a criminal in their mind merely because they disagree with him politically.

These kooks pushing Obama to prosecute this are out for blood, and they know that he is their chance to get it. He is so determined to please the left, and be the hero of the world, that he can’t see the forest for the trees. Obama seems to believe that by bringing his predecessor down, he builds himself up.

How juvenile and petty this seems to those of us with half a brain, but considering who is in charge, it’s par for the course.

Susanboo on April 23, 2009 at 1:47 PM

His 100 days, will be passed over for fear of what a real analysis will bring…

right2bright on April 23, 2009 at 1:41 PM

Go to the Drudge Report today and look at the main headline about Obama’s first 100 days. I can’t even bring myself to read it, sickening!

Susanboo on April 23, 2009 at 1:54 PM

Susan….you are very right. This is a mob mentality.

AnninCA on April 23, 2009 at 1:55 PM

OMG, what the hell kind of show is Obama running?

His inexperience is going to get Americans killed. If he, moveon.org, ACLU, and the Democrats want a show trial, then bring it on. Line up Pelosi and Democrats who approved the meetings. Line up congress for voting for funding. Line up Barack Obama for releasing HALF of the information.

The Truth Commission’s first action is to lay out why Obama released the memos, and if he did so for political gains, we need to move for impeachment.

TN Mom on April 23, 2009 at 2:54 PM

Obama is untrustworthy!

I just can’t trust a president whose cabinet includes a Tax Cheater running the IRS, and a nimcompoop who thinks 9/11 highjakcers came through Canada, Veterans are terrorist.

TN Mom on April 23, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Releasing the memos with glaring redactions.

Changing direction on investigations; once, twice, three times… (I’ve lost track).

Cratering to the pressure from the far left.

Freezing the CIA in place, in war time.

Forcing any attorney presently offering advice to his administration to reconsider those efforts.

I think Obama has shot off all his toes prior to this. I do believe that he now has just shot himself in the head.

Yoop on April 23, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Pandora? Here’s you’re box.
Dare we open it?

Sefton on April 23, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Ya’ll should have torture parties to show the world you support torture.

getalife on April 23, 2009 at 9:14 AM

You mean you’ve never heard of b&d/s&m parties? Quite popular in certain circles these days.

We need to stop with all this hypocrisy.

sarahpalinfan99 on April 23, 2009 at 3:15 PM

I am afraid of my government; it is surreal & sounds stupid, but it is officially the truth as of today

Ris4victory on April 23, 2009 at 3:42 PM

Get your popcorn ready. I think Rep. Pete Hoekstra will not allow the Dems to just run a sideshow trial. I think he should start naming names of ALLL that were in attendence and approved of the methods. That’s kill this pig quicker than than a ham sammich ata Jewish wedding.

44Magnum on April 23, 2009 at 3:43 PM

Ya’ll should have torture parties to show the world you support torture.

getalife on April 23, 2009 at 9:14 AM

I have never been waterboarded but. The summer after first grade I almost drown, when my swimsuit got caught on a protruding bolt. Thanks to adrenaline, and at the price of a nasty scrape on my wiener, and a destroyed swimsuit, I reached the air glorious air.
waterboarding is not torture.

darktood on April 23, 2009 at 3:57 PM

I am afraid of my government; it is surreal & sounds stupid, but it is officially the truth as of today

Ris4victory on April 23, 2009 at 3:42 PM

Welcome to the club. Been that way for years.

darktood on April 23, 2009 at 4:00 PM

His approval rating is as high as Chavez and Saddam…

But this week GM was a failure, corruption of TARP funds leading to a suicide. Criticism of the 2009 Apology tour….

Rahm…..let’s talk TORTURE that will get those tea baggers off the news.

But, I think they overreached…I hopey and hopey it will lead to CHANGES.

Go Cheney, Go Hoekstra……

nondhimmie on April 23, 2009 at 4:09 PM

Obama acts like he’s still in Chicago, where a thoroughly corrupt and all-encompassing city political machine can manage the story and dictate its course.

He sandbagged himself on this whole issue by trying to appease his most lunatic Left-wing cheerleaders.

The first sign that this story is going to go bye-bye is when top level Dems start calling the whole issue a “distraction.”

cruadin on April 23, 2009 at 6:15 PM

Meanwhile, GM and Chrysler going bankrupt…corruption abounds concerning Tarp Monies, Suicide by CFO linked to Fannie Mae, DHS labels Canada, granny, and vets as terrorists, illegals are not criminals, etc…Murtha
s airport, Rattner pay for play, on and on and on.

The left’s leaders Soros, Perez Hilton and the rest are quite a homely lot aren’t they? No wonder they swoon with big ears, purple lips and sagging boobs..If he loses his trunks his approval rating will hit saddams.

nondhimmie on April 23, 2009 at 6:54 PM

Why would a party and its leader who are squeamish about the so-called torture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed think they could outsmart and play political gotcha with the likes of Dick Cheney (aka in their words Darth Vader) and win? They played their cards and Cheney just upped the ante, now they are wetting their pants with indecision on what to do next. My bet is they will fold, but not before they have distracted everyone away from their legislative agenda.

txmomof6 on April 23, 2009 at 7:25 PM

Maybe Ackbar should have consulted with his own OLC before launching into his own witchhunt of unintended consequences in releasing half of the memos and redacted statements.

onlineanalyst on April 24, 2009 at 7:53 AM

Obama can’t stick with the position that the most culpable people in the interrogation were the lawyers who responded to a request for clarification on the law.

Most culpable? Perhaps not. Probably the most culpable were the people who said “Hey, we want to do some sick stuff to these guys. Write up some memo that makes it sound legal.” rather than the jokers who wrote the bogus memos.

orange on April 24, 2009 at 12:14 PM