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MR. SCOTT: A couple of headlines that we are keeping an eye on, the question in Washington is: Will they or won't they? Would top officials in the Bush White House who gave the green light to interrogation techniques like waterboarding potentially face prosecution?
We're learning that some of the top members of the Bush White House verbally approved waterboarding as early as 2002. Now, word of this might only heighten the calls among Democrats in Congress for broader investigations and prosecutions, but it's a development that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is playing down.
MR. EMANUEL (From video.): This is not a time for retribution, it's time for reflection. It is not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and in a sense of anger and retribution.
MR. SCOTT: Emanuel's sentiments echoed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who in a joint statement released with fellow Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman says, "America needs to look forward, not in the past." It reads, in part, "given the great challenges that face our country in dealing with detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Airfield and elsewhere, along with detainees that will undoubtedly fall into U.S. custody as a result of future operations, we have every interest in looking forward to solutions, not backward to recriminations. That is why we do not support the idea of a commission that would focus on the mistakes of the past."
Joining us now is the Senator himself, Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, sits on the Senate's Judiciary and Armed Services Committee. We should also note Senator Graham is currently a JAG officer in the Air Force Reserves where he holds the rank of colonel.
Colonel and Senator, thanks for joining us.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.
MR. SCOTT: What is the sentiment of some of your fellow members of the Senate? We know that Joe Lieberman --
SEN. GRAHAM: Right.
MR. SCOTT: And Senator McCain are on board with you, but do you really think there is the appetite in the Senate to go through with some of these investigations, maybe even prosecutions?
SEN. GRAHAM: No, I don't, because it would be very bad for the country. You've got to remember that right after 9/11; we all believed we were going to be attacked again soon. So what the president asked of his legal advisers and DOD and the Department of Justice is come up with some interrogation techniques that will allow us to prevent the next attack, that if we catch people who are part of al Qaeda, what can we do to make sure that we're not attacked again? And they looked at the law. They gave a legal opinion. They weren't conspiring to commit a crime. They were trying to provide tools to our country, to our intelligence community, to protect us from what we all believed to be an imminent attack.
Some of their rationale I disagree with, but it's not a crime to disagree with Lindsey Graham. These people were trying to defend the nation the best they could. We need to look forward, not back. They're not criminals. Whether you agree with them or not, they were trying to defend the nation.
MR. SCOTT: Well, when President Obama said he would leave the door open to this kind of thing, these discussions, whether they be hearings or prosecutions, I mean, is that a door that he should have closed in your opinion?
SEN. GRAHAM: I think it was a mistake. His initial statement was, we're not going to prosecute CIA agents who were following approved procedures to try to get information to protect the country, and this idea of looking at the lawyer who gave the legal advice would be a nightmare for America. Who would serve in the future as a lawyer knowing that your legal advice in hindsight could put you in jail?
So it's just not the way to go. We need to close the door. I think Rahm Emanuel has and what do we do with the prisoners at Gitmo? I am very much in the camp that some of these people if you let them go would go right back to the fight and we've got to come up with a legal mechanism to keep them off the battlefield and some of them are not subject to be tried as a war criminal, but the evidence is solid enough to say they're an enemy combatant.
How do we handle the future is what I'm worried about? We can't let people go -- they're going to go back to the fight, but we also have to have a legal system we can be proud of. That's what we need to focus our energy.
MR. SCOTT: Jim Angle is reporting from Washington this morning that there are colleagues of yours on Capitol Hill, people like former intelligence committee head in the House and former CIA head Porter Goss who were briefed on things like waterboarding and approved it.
SEN. GRAHAM: Absolutely.
MR. SCOTT: He was joined in that by Nancy Pelosi who is currently, obviously --
SEN. GRAHAM: Yes.
MR. SCOTT: The Speaker of the House. If they were briefed on it and approved it, I mean, don't they face the same kind of problems that some in past administrations might in terms of prosecution?
SEN. GRAHAM: Very good point. The people who were coming up with these interrogation techniques and analyzing the law were trying to create tools to gather information to protect the nation from attack, and any member of Congress or any one that was read into this program were in the same boat as the lawyers.
So if the theory is they were committing a crime, conspiring to commit a crime and you're told about that crime, then you're part of it. So where would it end? It would be, I think, absurd to hold lawyers criminally responsible for getting legal advice you didn't agree with, but if you go down that road and you use that theory, any one who was in the room who understood what was going on and did nothing would be equally liable, including Nancy Pelosi.
MR. SCOTT: Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. We appreciate it. Thank you.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.