May 15, 2009

Sheldon Whitehouse while being asked about the torture bombshell that Lawrence Wilkerson dropped on Dick Cheney says that if what Wilkerson asserts is true and the Bush administration went outside of the OLC's legal justification for the torture, it raises the prospect for criminal prosecutions.

Sanchez: We're hearing from ex-Powell Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson and he's making the argument that he believes that what the Bush administration was doing with enhanced interrogations was trying to make a case for the invasion of Iraq and trying to justify what happened in Iraq. So you believe that is actually what enhanced interrogation, "so called" torture was being used for?

Whitehouse: I've heard that to be true. There is some further evidence of that in Chairman Levin's Armed Services Committee report. There is not a great deal of evidence that came out in our hearing one way or the other about that. The one thing I will say about that is that if that is true, then it takes the application of these techniques out of the protected scope of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion.

Sanchez: And it makes this them political. It's not about we were scared, we wanted to defend the country any more. Now it's about we needed to have some political justification or something we wanted to do. (crosstalk)

Whitehouse: And that raises the prospect of there being a criminal prosecution that could justifiably emerge from these facts if that were in fact the motivation.

Sanchez: One quick thing before I let you go...Am I hearing you say that if there was evidence, enough evidence on this particular subject, that it was being used to try and get or boost the reason for the war in Iraq, that you would be more likely to push for criminal prosecution?

Whitehouse: Torture is criminal. If it's not justified by the OLC opinion. If there aren't any defenses that that raises because you've gone outside of it then it exposes people to that. That's a decision that should be made by the Attorney General, by an appropriate prosecutor or official...

Sanchez: But will you say on the record that if you find evidence of that you're more apt to want to push for a prosecution? Yes or no.

Whitehouse: One is more apt to do that--correct.

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