Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) on Wednesday discouraged Attorney General Eric Holder from initiating any investigation of how suspected terrorists were treated at the hands of American intelligence agents and contractors.
In a statement inserted into the Congressional Record, Lieberman said Holder — who has indicated he might appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of detainee abuse — could damage U.S. intelligence activities in ordering such a probe.
“I fear that such an investigation could very well foster a climate of political recriminations and sap the morale of the intelligence community,— Lieberman said in the statement. “Those near-certain results would no doubt leave our country less safe.—
The chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee continued, “An investigation could ruin careers of men and women who have sacrificed so much on our behalf and would have a chilling effect on intelligence efforts moving forward. The overhanging threat of investigations will force those in the intelligence services to be risk averse, which in turn would make us all less secure.
“In the war against an enemy that does not wear a uniform, that ruthlessly kills innocent civilians, that then hides among those very same civilians, and that uses our own freedoms to undermine and attack us, tough decisions under great pressure — life and death decisions — must be made by those whose job it is to protect our security and our freedom.—
In 2002, the George W. Bush administration provided the CIA and intelligence contractors with legal guidance as to what harsh methods they could use in interrogations of detainees in the post-9/11 war on terrorism. But since those techniques — which included waterboarding and prolonged sensory deprivation — were revealed, some have questioned whether the United States had essentially legalized the torture of prisoners. Even the Bush administration later revised its legal guidelines to prohibit waterboarding.
When President Barack Obama came into office this year, he specifically prohibited the use of those harsh interrogation methods.
While Obama has said he does not support prosecutions of agents or contractors who operated within Bush-era legal guidelines, he has left open the possibility that people who exceeded those instructions could be held accountable.
Lieberman, a hawk on defense issues, invoked Obama’s words in making his case. “President Obama had it right when he said that with regard to past behavior by the intelligence community, he is more interested in looking forward than … looking backward.’ Given the threats that we face as a nation, it is imperative that we follow the president’s lead,— Lieberman said.