In a letter to President Obama today, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) asked him to resist prosecuting Bush administration officials who wrote legal memos authorizing torture. “Pursuing such prosecutions would, we believe, have serious negative effects,” wrote the three senators.
Acknowledging that the Office of Legal Counsel memos were “deeply flawed,” the three senators claim that they have always been “strongly opposed” to torturous interrogation tactics like waterboarding:
We disagree, however, with Administration statements suggesting that the lawyers who provided such counsel may now be open to prosecution. Some of the legal analysis included in the OLC memos released last week was, we believe, deeply flawed. We have also strongly opposed the overly coercive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that these memos deemed legal. We do not believe, however, that legal analysis should be criminalized, as proposals to prosecute government lawyers suggest.
The idea that Lieberman would sign his name to a letter claiming that he has always been “strongly opposed” to waterboarding is surprising. In fact, just two days ago, he told Fox News that in some situations “we ought to be able to use something like waterboarding“:
Q: 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 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.
In the past, Lieberman has defended the use of waterboarding in select situations. “You want to be able to use emergency tech to try to get the information out of that person,” said Lieberman, adding that “it is not like putting burning coals on people’s bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological.”