Graham: Approving Torture Techniques That Are ‘Clearly Illegal’ Are ‘Not Criminal Mistakes’

This morning on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, a caller asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) why he would not support a possible criminal investigation into the Bush-era torture program. Graham defended the Bush administration by saying they “overreacted” “out of fear,” but insisted that Bush’s “mistakes” were “not criminal mistakes”:

GRAHAM: The reason I don’t want to go back any more than we have already done is because I know what happened. Out of fear, we overreacted. … They took a view of the law that I think was aggressive, and I would not have approached it that way. Right after 9/11, we all thought we were going to be hit again. So as we go back and try to hold people criminally liable. I think we’re doing a lot of damage to the country, because their mistakes were not criminal mistakes. They were mistakes made out of fear.

Watch it:


The Bush administration approved, among other gruesome techniques, the use of waterboarding; waterboarding is torture, and torture is a crime. And it’s not just retired military experts, presidents, presidential candidates, and 71 percent of Americans who say so: Graham himself declared, in October 2007, that waterboarding “is clearly illegal under domestic and international law”:

GRAHAM: I am convinced, as an individual senator, as a military lawyer for 25 years, that waterboarding…does violate our war crimes statute and is clearly illegal under domestic and international law. … I don’t think you have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates Geneva Convention Common Article Three, the War Crimes statutes, and many other statutes that are in place. So I do hope that he will embrace that.

Apparently for Graham, if you approve something that is “clearly illegal,” it’s not “a criminal mistake” — so long as you are acting out of fear.