Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated Thursday that he would not prosecute members of the intelligence community who acted "in good faith," following Justice Department counsel when they used harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects.
Fielding questions before the House Appropriations Committee, Holder said he would not criminalize policy differences, but he will prosecute violations of law.
"If I see evidence of wrongdoing, I will pursue it to the full extent of the law, and I will do it in an appropriate way," he said. "As I think I have shown throughout my career, I'm prepared to make tough decisions that are, in fact, fair decisions."
Holder was on Capitol Hill to testify about the Justice Department budget, but lawmakers peppered him with questions about the release last week of classified memos detailing interrogation techniques that some now label torture.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) said Holder had an obligation to release all of the memos to the public — including those that Vice President Dick Cheney has said confirm that aggressive techniques were effective.
"I think you have an obligation to release the rest of the memos," Wolf said.
Holder said he didn't know what documents Cheney meant; however, he said he favors the release of all memorandums that do not conflict with national security interests.
"It is certainly the intention of this administration not to play hide-and-seek or not to release certain things in a way that is not consistent with other things. It is not our intention to try to advance a political agenda or to hide things from the American people," he said.
Holder said he has set up task forces to look at interrogation and detention guidelines that will cover both Guantanamo Bay and what happens on the battlefield.
The attorney general said he wants to make certain that policies are set that are effective and adhere to U.S. values.
Visiting Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Defense Secretary Robert Gates said said he wrestled over whether it was a good idea to make public the four memos that provided legal guidance to the CIA, worrying that U.S. troops overseas might be at risk if the memos provoked a backlash.
But he said he ultimately supported the release of the memos because he thought it was inevitable that they would come to light.
"Pretending that we could hold all of this and keep it all a secret, even if we wanted to, I think was probably unrealistic, so we'll just have to deal with it," Gates said.
With additional reporting by NPR's Mary Louise Kelly