April 17, 2009 CNN
Transcript from CNN:
BLITZER: Waiting to hear from the president of the United States. We'll go there as soon as he starts speaking. He's expected to respond to Raul Castro. The latest overture is going back and forth between the U.S. and Cuban governments. Stand by for that.
Images of hooded detainees we've seen this before but secret memos just released are giving America and the world a whole new look at some interrogation tactics okayed by the Bush administration. Techniques some consider torture and now there's new fallout from the decision to make the documents public. We asked CNN's Brian Todd to take a closer look at these unfolding developments. Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the images presented in these memos are still reverberating. For example, the sanction of waterboarding where Bush administration lawyers outline how to pour water on a suspect's face to create the sensation of drowning, rules which according to the memos released were often broken by using larger volumes of water than allowed. Sleep deprivation where a suspect is shackled standing up sometimes for almost 11 days straight, all designed to get information from terror suspects. But now the release of these memos is turning into one of President Obama's most scrutinized moves.
TODD (voice-over): Much of the push back comes from those who served on President Bush's security team, who say his successor is tying his own hands in the future fight against terror. Former CIA director Michael Hayden and former attorney general Michael Mukasey write in the "Wall Street Journal", "The release of the opinions on interrogations will invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past. And that we came to sorely regret on September 11." They and former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend, a CNN analyst, also argue that methods like cramped confinement for a limited time used against al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah worked in locating the 9/11 mastermind.
FRANCES TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: The use and technique led to the ultimate capture of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. So there is an argument to be made that in limited circumstances these techniques can be effective in preventing terrorist attacks.
TODD: But techniques that were not as harsh have worked just as well says a former army lawyer who's now a human rights advocate.
BRIG. GE. JAMES P. CULLEN (RET.), HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: We got the top guy in al Qaeda and Mesopotamia by using techniques that army military intelligence used in accordance with the manual and we got excellent information.
TODD: Another key question moving forward, consequences for those involved in the use of these techniques. The Obama administration says CIA officials won't be prosecuted. But what about Bush administration lawyers who wrote that methods like stress positions and sleep deprivation were legal, like top Justice Department officials Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: We need to know the facts, but we don't need a witch hunt. I don't think that's appropriate for the people who are working in the agency. I also don't think it's something that Barack Obama needs in his presidency right now.
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TODD: Still Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman John Conyers, democrats who head the judiciary committees in congress are both calling for independent commissions outside congress to investigate the drafting of these memos. When we pressed them, aides to Leahy and Conyers would not say whether they would want Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury specifically called before those commissions. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, there's still very much the possibility that officials elsewhere around the world, especially in Spain could not only investigate but charge some of these Bush administration officials.
TODD: That is possible. A Spanish judge just today went against recommendations of prosecutors and kept alive an investigation into whether Jay Bybee, also former attorney general Alberto Gonzales and other Bush administration officials broke international law when writing some of these interrogation guidelines. So those possibilities still technically exist.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that. Let's get back to our CNN political contributors, the democratic strategist James Carville, the republican strategist Ed Rollins. Do you think the president may have made a mistake in releasing these Bush administration documents?
CARVILLE: I don't think so. What struck me about the whole thing is how crude it was. It aided the legal opinions. I never was much of a lawyer but they didn't seem like much to me. You know, these are all like putting an insect in a cell, waterboarding we put Japanese to death, that's torture. The whole thing, like they can't think of something else? I would think by this time the CIA would have more creative ways to get information than that, but what do I know?
BLITZER: A lot of this stuff, as you know, Ed, was pretty much out there in the news media and in the public domain, but it's different once the U.S. government formally releases the actual documents, the legal opinions.
ROLLINS: I have two thoughts. The first thought being it's against our law. It's against our constitution, it's against international treaties that we signed. Torture is not something we're supposed to use though it separates us from everybody else. In the weeks and days after 9/11 when we had 3,000 Americans murdered obviously you do things because you're scared. As you had more time to think about it the practices should not have been used.
My concern today is obviously there are people in the CIA including Leon Panetta that argued against the release and I think to a certain extent this is now this president's team. These CIA guys are his team, Leon Panetta is his man and so I think to a certain extent they have to be very careful how they move forward here and certainly by not bringing anybody or letting anybody be charged here I think is very important.
BLITZER: And he did make that decision, the president of the United States, that no one would be prosecuted. None of the CIA officers who actually implemented these techniques.
CARVILLE: And no one would have been convicted. No jury in America would have convicted these guys for something that they did. The only thing that struck me is we get all of this -- sloppy lawyering and sloppy intelligence. I mean it looks like they didn't have some kind of truth serum or something? I don't know. And now? We did this -- everybody knew that we were doing it. And this just confirmed what everyone knew. This is not a very glorious chapter in our history. But you know what, we're a great country and we'll get over this too.
BLITZER: The United States has gotten over a lot worse.
CARVILLE: A lot worse, yes.
ROLLINS: We still haven't caught the 6'6" man running around with the kidney machine with all the torture and all the rest of it that obviously has got to be our target.
CARVILLE: Hopefully we get him. It just seemed very -- very -- not very creative and not very smart to me.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.