Lieberman: Memo release "helps our enemies"

Tacking back to the right, the Connecticut senator says the Obama administration made the wrong decision in releasing the OLC torture memos.

Published April 21, 2009 10:45PM (EDT)

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman has, of late, been working to make amends with the Obama administration for his support of John McCain during the presidential election. But that doesn't mean he's holding himself back completely.

The "Independent Democrat" was on Fox News' "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" Monday night when the question of the president's decision to release Office of Legal Counsel memos regarding CIA interrogation methods came up. Here, via Steve Benen, is the resulting exchange, in which Lieberman says the release "helps our enemies":

VAN SUSTEREN: Again, the whole business about the torture memos being released by the Obama administration -- good idea or bad idea?

LIEBERMAN: I thought release of the memos was a bad idea.

The president of the United States as the commander in chief has the right to decide what kinds of tactics he wants to use with detainees who we believe are associated with terrorism and what kinds he does not want to use. Congress legislated on that. I was a cosponsor with Senator McCain of the anti-torture provisions we put into law.

But once you start to take internal memos that have been designated as top secret...

VAN SUSTEREN: Even if it's -- first of all, is waterboarding torture?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I take a minority position on this. Most people think it's definitely torture. The truth is, it has mostly a psychological impact on people. It's a terrible thing to do.

I have said in the past, and I'll say it again to you, that I want the president of the United States in a given circumstance where we believe somebody we've got in our control may have information that could help us stop an attack, an imminent attack on the United States like 9/11 or, god forbid, worse, we ought to be able to use something like waterboarding.

But, generally speaking, it ought to not be on the table.

Incidentally, I believe General Hayden when he says that not just waterboarding, which he stopped, as I understand it, but a number of the other items on that list that have been published, really did work, did help to give us a lot of information we have about Al Qaeda.

Why do I think it was a mistake to give it out? I wasn't necessary. It just helps our enemies. It doesn't really help us.

Again, the president can decide what tactics he wants the CIA or the military to use on people we capture, suspects of terrorism. But to let our enemies know what we are going to do or not do, that's not a good idea.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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