Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the use of coercive interrogation techniques. Among other witnesses, the committee heard from the FBI’s general counsel and a former FBI special agent, both of whom decried torture as ineffective and impermissible.
Halfway through the hearing, the testimony of international lawyer Philippe Sands — who chronicled the Bush administration’s approval of torture in his book Torture Team — was suddenly interrupted, when Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) used an objection to force the Senate into recess and disrupt the hearing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who were leading the hearing, were perplexed about the disruption:
FEINSTEIN: I must interrupt you. Apparently the Republican leader has just objected to committee’s proceeding. So for the moment, we will have to stop. And we will know as soon as it’s acceptable to go ahead. … Clearly, somebody doesn’t want this to go ahead.
WHITEHOUSE: So it would seem.
FEINSTEIN: It would.
WHITEHOUSE: I’m new here. I’ve only been here a year and a half. I’ve never seen this happen before. I’ve never seen a hearing interrupted by minority leadership.
FEINSTEIN: Very, very unusual.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the Senate floor to denounce the conservatives’ obstructionist tactics. Watch it:
Reid blasted Senate conservatives for using the “very rare” objection, and called the tactics “part of a pattern of obstruction.” In fact, just today, they blocked a measure taxing Big Oil’s windfall profits and another that would have extended tax credits for renewable energy sources.
Announcing he would call the Senate into recess in order to continue the hearing, Reid said, “Republicans may not want these abuses to come to light, but I think the American people have the right to know.”