Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has questioned the credibility of former Vice President Dick Cheney who has defended the use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists. The controversial interrogation issue came up as Secretary Clinton testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Secretary Clinton was pressed by committee Republicans about President Obama's decision to leave the door open to possible prosecution of former Bush administration officials involved in formulating legal justifications for harsh interrogation techniques.
President Obama has said he would not favor prosecution of CIA agents and others who conducted the interrogations, but he said he would support a non-politicized bipartisan congressional review of the matter and would not rule out possible Justice Department action.
The Justice Department would decide whether to bring charges against former high officials who devised legal justifications for interrogation methods such as "waterboarding".
Secretary Clinton had this exchange with California Republican Dana Rohrabacher about Vice President Cheney's effort to force the release of classified documents he says prove that harsh interrogation methods yielded valuable intelligence:
ROHRABACHER: "Are you in favor of releasing the documents that Dick Cheney has been requesting be released?"
CLINTON: "Well, it will not surprise you that I do not consider him a particularly reliable source of information."
ROHRABACHER: "Madame Secretary, I asked you a specific question. Dick Cheney has asked for specific documents to be unclassified, we are not asking your opinion about Dick Cheney. About those documents, [if] you want to maintain your credibility with us, what is your position on the release of those documents?"
CLINTON: "Well, Congressman I believe that we ought to get to the bottom of this entire matter. I think it is in the best interests of our country and that is what the president believes and that is why he has taken the actions he did."
Secretary Clinton said she had "no information" on details about interrogation tactics that intelligence agencies shared with the leadership of congressional committees.
Republican Dan Burton joined in criticizing President Obama on the question of possible prosecutions of former Bush officials.
"We need both hands untied with our intelligence agencies to really stop terrorism in the United States," said Dan Burton. "And I hope that the President of the United States, and you Madame Secretary, will re-evaluate the situation and not be prosecuting people at the CIA or the Justice Department who are just doing their job to try to protect this country."
Vice President Cheney has formally asked the U.S. National Archives to declassify CIA documents he says support assertions he and other critics of the Obama administration have made about the value of the harsh interrogation techniques used on some high value terror suspects.
The Obama administration earlier released classified Bush-era legal memos detailing the harsh methods used during the interrogation of some terrorist suspects. Vice President Cheney says that by only releasing the documents describing the methods, it is not possible to see the successes from the interrogations.