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Democrats rush to capitalize on torture memos

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May 12, 2009

Casting aside their president’s misgivings, Democrats are racing into hearings to criticize newly released Bush administration memos justifying harsh terrorism interrogations.

So far, however, the biggest embarrassment has engulfed a Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

As Pelosi keeps trying to clarify when she initially learned of the interrogation techniques, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee scheduled a hearing Wednesday that was billed as the "first public hearing on torture memos since their release."

The Senate’s public hearing — and House hearings to come — demonstrate that even a Democratic president can’t stop his party’s lawmakers from delving into what they consider embarrassments of a Republican administration.

Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs has said the administration prefers an inquiry already under way by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which operates behind closed doors with classified information.

But Democrats can’t control everything. On Friday, Pelosi, D-Calif., was forced to issue yet another news release repeating her past assertions that she had been briefed in 2002 only on new interrogation techniques that had been deemed legal and were planned for future use.

Her latest statement came three weeks after the Justice Department released formerly classified legal memos that detailed the CIA’s harsh, once-secret interrogation program. Last week, CIA records were released showing that Pelosi was briefed in September 2002 on the harsh methods then being used.

That appeared to contradict Pelosi’s version, which said she understood the techniques were only planned for future use. The CIA records, however, were vague on exactly what Pelosi was told.

Wednesday’s hearing will be chaired by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who also is a member of the Intelligence Committee and attended secret briefings on the interrogation methods by intelligence officials in the George W. Bush administration.

Whitehouse said in an interview that he offered legislation in the Intelligence Committee to ban the harsh methods. His measure became part of legislation that passed under the sponsorship of the committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

But Whitehouse said he never protested to the Bush administration because "it never crossed my mind that it would make the least bit of difference."

The hearing of the Judiciary administrative oversight and the courts subcommittee, he said, will focus on legal issues that are not part of the intelligence inquiry. The primary issue is the conduct of Justice Department lawyers who wrote or approved memos justifying waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other harsh interrogation methods.

A draft report from an internal Justice Department investigation said Bush administration lawyers who approved harsh methods should not face criminal charges but said two of the attorneys face possible professional sanctions.

"I have spoken to my leadership and to Sen. Feinstein. Everybody seems very comfortable with what I’m doing," Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse said he had "no feedback of any kind" from the Obama administration. "I assume if they had discomfort they would have communicated that to someone. I get zero sense that the administration is concerned about what particular committee should do this."

A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said the administration would have no comment on Whitehouse’s hearing.

One witness scheduled to testify Wednesday, Philip Zelikow, was among the Bush administration’s top State Department officials who fought the interrogation techniques in fierce internal battles with former Vice President Dick Cheney and the Justice Department. He wrote a memo protesting that the techniques violated the Constitution.

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On the Net:

Senate Judiciary Committee: http://judiciary.senate.gov

7 Responses to Democrats rush to capitalize on torture memos

  1. WINFIELD MCMURTREY

    May 12, 2009 at 9:24 am

    “The biggest embarrassment has engulfed a Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi” – I don’t know who this rightwing pinhead Larry is but I would’ve thought the biggest embarrassment would be for the RepubliNazis – the political party which embraced torture as American policy.

  2. RichardKanePA

    May 12, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Let’s figure out how to join Obama’s call that America will do better in the future. I’m glad Nancy is trying to improve US policy.

    If people can’t complain about anything without facing a microscope to see if they are being in any way hypercritical we won’t get a better country or a better world.

    I remember Jimmy Carter, then the Democratic sweep of 2006, trying like Obama to make a better America. Carter got swept out by the October surprise, and John Murtha instead of becoming Majority Whip had to face criticism for being a supposed unindited co-conspirator because he kept telling a phony Arab sheik “maybe later” while trying to get money from him in a more legitimate way. And suddenly people became concerned because his votes on abortion and guns agreed with his Appalachian neighbors, even though he never got on a soap box on any such issues.

    What is wrong with us that we look at a microscope to see if there is any hypocrisy when someone advocates for the good?

    Now we face Cheney and Limbaugh bragging about torture, possibly leading to a much more scary country if the Democrats ever slip up.

    RichardKanePA

  3. Carl Nemo

    May 12, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    At times I feel the photo’s chosen to go along with an editorial are done so intentionally. As it’s said a picture is worth a thousand words.

    Nancy Pelosi’s photo along with this article could be used for a poster; ie., the face of corruption and perdition or simply the lady referenced in Revelation Chapter 17-18 of the Christian bible…no?!

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. AustinRanter

    May 12, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I’m with you Carl, head to toe, Nancy is a great candidate for “Face of Corruption” poster.

  5. Paolo

    May 12, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Folks, if we lived in a free, moral, and just society, all the Bush Administration creeps who authorized torture would be on trial, right now.

    But we don’t live in a free, moral, or just society. Obama seems to want to stop the torture, but it’s SOOOOO convenient to have that “tool” at your disposal, isn’t it?

    If Obama really wanted “change,” he would call for the immediate investigation and prosecution of these unbelievably creepy Bush Administration officials. But he won’t do it. Too inconvenient and controversial, politically speaking.

    God, the Dems and Reps make me ill….

  6. remoran

    May 13, 2009 at 9:33 am

    “Never stop questioning.” Einstein

    Paolo is spot on. Both parties make me ill as well. Obama also has been a huge disappointment especially on surveillance and the economy. Nothing has changed and it never will as long as people remain passive and uninformed.

  7. Carl Nemo

    May 13, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Today the news is that his admin is allowing the trials to reconvene at GITMO. I’m sure GITMO isn’t going to close either under his watch. This guy is a “judas goat” groomed for the purpose of leading the U.S. to its ultimate destruction for the benefit of the shadowy oligarchs that control this nation and the world at large.

    We’ve been had folks and there’s seemingly no intention for them to even cloak their plans for letting this nation go down the tubes. In fact they are rubbing our collective noses in their many years of politically expedient s**t from Reagan onward to Obama! : |

    Carl Nemo **==