Hoekstra Blasts Reopening Of Interrogation Probe
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that prosecutor John Durham will investigate whether laws were broken in the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques. We're going to get reaction now from the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, that's Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan. Welcome to the program.
Representative PETER HOEKSTRA (Republican, Michigan): Hi. It's good to be with you. Thank you.
BLOCK: And Congressman, you have called this move by Attorney General Holder a bureaucratic turf battle that risks disrupting CIA counterterrorism initiatives. Why do you think so?
Rep. HOEKSTRA: Well, from my perspective, this issue has been under review for years. This is not a - this will be a new review, but it will be a review of information that has been reviewed many times before. The CIA initiated their own investigation, that's where the IG report came from. Congress has had access to this information. Career professionals within the Justice Department have reviewed this. And the end result was that there was one prosecution and that there were a number of other people that I - I've - if I'm remembering correctly - were dealt with administratively through the CIA for not appropriately following the rules.
Now this is all being open up - opened up one more time, you know, perhaps the fourth or fifth review. And I just don't see what new evidence there is that justifies the attorney general reopening these cases.
BLOCK: The CIA Inspector General's report that was released yesterday included a lot of details about harsh techniques, a mock execution, threats to kill a detainee's children, repeated pressure applied to the carotid artery of one detainee until he started to pass out. If Attorney General Eric Holder thinks that's grounds for a full investigation or a preliminary review with a prosecutor, shouldn't he have the right to do that?
Rep. HOEKSTRA: Well, he obviously - he does have the right to do that. He's doing it. But again, this information was reviewed. Is he going to go back and review all of the cases that might've been conducted under the Bush administration and re-review them. You know, the bottom line, excuse me, the bottom line here is we are still under threat from radical jihadists. We've got troops on the ground that are fighting an ever increasing, increasingly strong enemy in Afghanistan. And what we're seeing is the president's national security team kind of in disarray. The president himself said: I want to look forward. Eric Holder is now looking back. Is Eric Holder freelancing?
The director of the CIA has threatened, at least according to press reports, Leon has said, Leon Panetta has said, I'm going to, you know, he is - he was threatening to quit because he thought this was so inappropriate. You've got leaders in the Congress saying the CIA lies, they lie all the time. It's the way they do business. And this is our premier intelligence organization. They're not without fault, but the people within the organization have been held accountable, but in some ways this almost appears to be double-jeopardy. It's being reviewed again.
BLOCK: How would this investigation impinge on counterterrorism activities or of the war in Afghanistan, for example, that you mentioned?
Rep. HOEKSTRA: Well, what it does is it, you know, all of these things have sent a chilling effect through the CIA. They believe that they were following the direction of their leadership both in Congress and the executive branch. They - many of them were held accountable for working outside of the rules. But now what their colleagues are saying is it doesn't matter. When there's a new administration comes in, a new sheriff in town, the rules can be rewritten and reevaluated and you can be, you know, the rules will change. And you may be the ones that are vulnerable.
You're going to see, excuse me, a CIA that is more risk averse. They're not going to take the chances in a very dangerous business that they need to do to take and collect the information that we need to keep our troops safe and defeat an enemy. You know, they've seen a couple of their people who clearly followed the law, who were - who ran programs under the Bush administration, that Congress funded and Congress was fully aware of, but as these individuals were appointed to positions that would need Senate confirmation, they - the nominations were withdrawn because, you know, the confirmation hearings...
Rep. HOEKSTRA: ...might be embarrassing to this president. So they're now saying, God, we could be prosecuted, we know our careers are now at an end, you know, what good does it do to do our jobs working for the CIA if these are the results?
BLOCK: So Congressman, Eric Holder, the attorney general, was clear yesterday that this investigation will be limited to those who are acting without legal authorization, without the legal guidance. So it's not nearly as broad as you seem to be portraying.
Rep. HOEKSTRA: Well I'm not portraying it, I think you're right. We - they're looking at the ones that operated outside the law. These people have been evaluated and dealt with. Eric Holder is going back and reevaluating them. But one of the things we've learned with special prosecutors is the original parameters don't necessarily always define the scope within they act. All you need to do is ask former President Bill Clinton, all you need to do is ask Scooter Libby, these special prosecutors tend to develop a life of their own, an independent voice that doesn't report to anybody. And I think that's one of the things that we need to take a look at and we need to be aware of.
BLOCK: Congressman Hoekstra, thanks.
Rep. HOEKSTRA: Hey, thank you.
BLOCK: That's Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan. He's the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.
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