In yesterday’s Senate Judiciary subcommittee torture hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) lashed out at witnesses and questioned whether the hearing was “a political stunt,” contending that “it’s not really fair” to the Bush administration. He repeatedly emphasized that the “other side of the story” is that torture produced “good information.”
Later, however, Graham broke with the conservative line and candidly admitted that torture has not make the U.S. “safer.” Talking to reporter Spencer Ackerman after the hearing, Graham claimed that the interrogation program “saved lives,” but at the same time, he stated that torture didn’t “as a whole” result in greater U.S. security:
GRAHAM: Well, I’m just saying there’s information that was devised, was received from enhanced interrogation techniques that did tell us about what the enemy was up to and probably save lives. That’s the other side of the story. I don’t think that these techniques as a whole have made us safer, because of the problems we’ve had. We’ve got a new way of going forward.
“Let’s have interrogation techniques within our values, but let’s don’t tell the enemies exactly what they are,” Graham concluded. Watch it:
Graham did not specify what “problems” the U.S. has had because of torture, but the evidence is clear. Torture has led to the deaths of coalition troops, inflamed anti-American sentiment, and shattered the reputation of the U.S. Graham’s statement is a significant break from Vice President Cheney, who insisted on Sunday that torture “kept the nation safe for nearly eight years.”
Graham, a former JAG lawyer, has tried to walk a fine line in the torture debate. To his credit, he has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration’s interrogation program, saying that waterboarding is torture and forcefully criticizing Bush officials who have hedged on the topic. Yet he has also voted against banning waterboarding, tried to argue just yesterday that waterboarding was effective, and opposes efforts to investigate the Bush administration.