Dems Hold Hearing on Interrogation Techniques

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Congress is debating whether the Bush administration tortured terrorism detainees with interrogation tactics like waterboarding.

Republicans say this should not even be a topic for debate.

They claim Democrat leaders in Congress like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were briefed about the interrogations and did not object at the time.

Pelosi insists she was never told about the actual use of such tactics.

One of the people who testified today before a Senate panel was Philip Zelikow, a top advisor to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Zelikow said he spoke out against waterboarding and other interrogation tactics, but the fact congressional leaders knew about them was used against him. 

He told senators, "We were having heated arguments about these policies on the inside in the White House Situation Room.  And the argument would often be deployed against me and my colleagues that, 'well, we briefed the following members of name name name...and they don't have a problem with it.'"

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told fellow senators at the hearing he thinks such hearings are harmful to the nation and that they'll make future administrations fearful of taking decisive action against terrorists.  He also said the fact congressmen were briefed about harsh interrogation techniques is almost proof the Bush administration didn't think it was breaking the law.

Graham said, "Members of Congress, allegedly, were briefed about these interrogation techniques.  And again it goes back to the idea of what was the administration trying to do.  If you're trying to commit a crime, it seems to me that's the last thing you'd want to do. If you had in your mind and heart that you're going to disregard the law and you're going to come up with interrogation techniques that you know are illegal, you would not go around telling people on the other side of the aisle about it."

The Senate panel heard from a number of lawyers and experts who bitterly disagreed over whether torture was used on detainees, whether such techniques as waterboarding were effective.

Former interrogator Ali Soufan testified against those techniques, but only from behind a wall meant to hide his identity.  He told senators, "These techniques from an operational perspective are slow, ineffective, unreliable and harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda."

But St. Mary's Univeristy of School of Law Professor Jeffrey Addicott disagreed any of interrogation techniques were torture.  He said, "Even the worst of the CIA techniques authorized by the Department of Justice legal memorandum, waterboarding, would not constitute torture.  The CIA method of waterboarding appears similar to what we've done hundreds and hundreds of times to our own military special operations soldiers in military training courses of escape and survival."

Zelikow, though, was firm in his harsh judgment of all those who authorized or knew about the use of those harsh interrogation techniques.  He stated, "This was a mistake, perhaps a disastrous one.  It was a collective failure in which a number of officials and members of Congress and staffers of both parties played a part."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at