On the defensive over the revelation that top Democrats in the House and Senate knew about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorist detainees from the very earliest days of the controversial program, Democrats on Capitol Hill are complaining that the CIA is engaging in a deliberate media campaign
to embarrass the party. The charge revolves around a 10-page summary of briefings given to members of Congress on the CIA interrogations prepared at the request of Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. The report shows that Democrats in both chambers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), were informed as early as 2002
about the use of methods that Democrats later labeled torture. No objections were raised at the time of the briefings, however.
Democrats say that the summary was leaked to the media by the CIA in part to deflect attention and responsibility away from the agency. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called the release of the summary "interesting," noting that it became public at a time when "some of the groups that have been responsible for these interrogation techniques were taking the most criticism." Senate Intelligence Committee member Russ Feingold (D-WI) appeared to lay blame for the leak at the feet of the White House. "[M]embers of the committee and their staff were not in any way involved. [The leak] appears to come from the executive branch itself...I think it's unbelievable." Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the current committee chairman, said ultimately, the effort would not help the CIA to dodge responsibility for its actions.
"Look, the CIA has the responsibility – there's no question about that. Because you brief or notify doesn't mean there's any less responsibility of the CIA, any less the responsibility of the individual who participates in this – in my opinion."
Feinstein may be right, but Democrats have argued strongly against the interrogations on moral grounds, saying that torture is wrong at all times and under all circumstances. It is only natural, then, that Democratic lawmakers' actions upon learning about the use of harsh interrogation methods are being scrutinized. There is no question that the silence of many top Democrats on the interrogations has hurt the party's arguments against the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war on terror. Democrats are desperately trying now to take the focus off their failure to object to the methods, and put it back on the CIA.
, Diane Feinstein
, Enhanced interrogations
, Nancy Pelosi
, Russ Feingold
, War on terror