Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., listens to testimony from Gen. Keith B. Alexander as he answers questions before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on June 12, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

An ‘emotional’ debate over Bush/Cheney-era torture policies

The Senate Intelligence Committee last week easily approved a measure last week to declassify part of its report on Bush/Cheney-era torture policies. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s chairwoman, explained, making the findings public is important to “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”
Yesterday, former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden pushed back against Feinstein’s comments in a deeply unfortunate way.
Hayden, who led the CIA and NSA under former President George W. Bush, told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, “Now that sentence that the motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”
Wallace countered, “Forgive me because you and I both know Senator Feinstein. I have the highest regard for her. You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?”
Hayden didn’t answer that directly, responding, “I, what I’m saying is, first of all, Chris, you’re asking me about a report that I have no idea of its content.”
But that only seemed to make matters worse. Hayden began by suggesting the woman who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee was too “emotional” in her role investigating Bush/Cheney torture policies, which in his mind led to a dubious, bipartisan report. He then followed that up by mentioning a minor detail: Hayden hasn’t read the report he’s criticizing.
For her part, Feinstein issued a statement soon after Hayden’s interview aired, and while she sidestepped his concerns about the senator being overly “emotional,” the California Democrat strongly defended her committee’s work, calling the completed report “objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits.”
Her statement added that the years-long investigation produced a report based on “documents provided by the CIA and the result is a comprehensive history of the CIA program. The only direction I gave staff was to let the facts speak for themselves.”
And then there were the Cheneys.
On the same Fox News program, Liz Cheney, an enthusiastic supporter of her father’s torture policies, also targeted the Intelligence Committee chair. “I think it’s very sad to see Sen. Feinstein do what she’s doing. From what we’ve seen in terms of the press reports about this report, it was written entirely by Democratic staffers,” Cheney said.
One wonders, then, why several Senate Republicans voted with Democrats to declassify the report’s findings.
Cheney’s comments came just a few days after her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney,  said of the policies he championed, “Some people call it torture,” Cheney said. “It wasn’t torture. We were very careful in all respects to abide by the law.
On msnbc’s “Up with Steve Kornacki” yesterday, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), an Intelligence Committee member, said he was “stunned” by the former V.P.’s comments.
“If he doesn’t think that was torture,” Kimg said, “I would invite him anywhere in the United States to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through.”
“That’s ridiculous to make that claim,” King went on. “This was torture by anybody’s definition.” Even John McCain agrees it was torture, he added, “and I think he’s in a better position to know that than Vice President Cheney.”
“What they did was bad, but then to misrepresent it the way they did throughout a number of years – that’s what’s really the worse thing.”
No word on whether Michael Hayden disapproves of Angus King’s “emotional” state.
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