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Public Statements

Helping Families Save Their Homes Act Of 2009 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Madam President, I rise today to express my disappointment with the Obama administration's decision to publicize the memorandums from the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. The four memos released by the administration examine whether the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques would violate U.S. statutes or international agreements prohibiting torture.

It is important to note that all four memos determined that the techniques did not violate U.S. constitutional or international law or U.S. criminal law. It is disappointing that the White House released to the public these highly sensitive memos. There is simply no productive or meaningful purpose in their release.

The memos describe in detail the CIA's interrogation program, the specific techniques that were used, psychological evaluations of detainees, and even detailed descriptions of some of the detainees themselves. All of this information raises questions about how seriously the President believes in protecting our national security as well as the confidentiality of legal counsel and the privacy of individuals. I believe the only reason the Obama administration chose to release these memos was for perceived political gain, and I also believe, based upon what I have heard in my home State, that the political gain has backlashed.

I think if Americans read these memos for themselves, they will agree that after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA program was necessary to detect and prevent additional American deaths. The program was designed to exploit information held by only the most senior, hardened, and dangerous al-Qaida figures who had perishable information about the attack's planning.

Since its inception in early 2002, fewer than 100 individuals were held in this program, which had significant safeguards, including detailed assessments to determine that the detainees were senior members of al-Qaida--not mere foot soldiers--who likely had actionable intelligence on terrorist threats and who posed a significant threat to U.S. interests before the CIA could detain them.

Out of the 100 or so detainees the CIA has held, only 3 were subjected to the most serious, yet legal, interrogation techniques. Those three were Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, whose deadly plan resulted in the murder of some 3,000 innocent Americans; secondly, Abu Zubaydah, a senior member of al-Qaida, whom the CIA assessed to be the third or fourth ranking member of the terrorist group and who had been involved in aspects of every al-Qaida attack against America; and thirdly, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a key al-Qaida operational planner. Information obtained from these three detainees saved American lives by disrupting al-Qaida attacks and led to the capture or arrest of even more terrorists. These detainees, who have been in the inner circle of al-Qaida and who have occupied some of the most important positions in that group's hierarchy, held information that simply could not have been obtained from any other source.

In fact, the memos reveal some of the invaluable information we have gained from the CIA program. This includes prevention of numerous terrorist attacks, such as the west coast airliner plot, which sought to replicate the hijacking of airplanes and crash them into buildings on the west coast of the United States.

One memo describes the discovery of this plot by stating:

The interrogation of KSM--

Which is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed--

--once enhanced techniques were employed, led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ``Second Wave,'' to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into a building in Los Angeles.

The same memo describes how interrogations provided information on two operatives who planned to build and detonate a dirty bomb in the Washington, DC, area. There is no doubt that the disruption of these attacks has saved American lives.

CIA detainees have also confirmed that al-Qaida continues to operate against the United States and its allies. Just recently, a statement from none other than the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, acknowledged that the high-value information came from this same CIA interrogation program and that al-Qaida continues to plan attacks against America.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have seen CIA assessments on the value of information the United States has gained from interrogations as well as intelligence on the continuing resolve of al-Qaida to attack the United States and to attack its citizens. However, much of this information remains classified, so only half of the story is being told. It is important that Americans have an opportunity to see what they were protected from as a result of the CIA interrogations--interrogations that were not only effective but were deemed by the Justice Department not to be torture under U.S. and international law.

The CIA's High Value Terrorist Detainee Program was a crucial pillar of U.S. counterterrorism efforts and was the largest source of insight into al-Qaida for the United States and its allies. Now, as a result of the release of these memos, the program is the largest source of information on U.S. operations to al-Qaida and our other enemies.

The administration claims it released these memos in an effort to be transparent, but the only transparency it has provided is to al-Qaida. The group now knows the outer boundaries of what the United States is capable of doing and that we are no longer using these methods or any others for interrogation.

Our enemies--traditional enemies and terrorists--now know that some interrogation methods were 100 percent effective on our own soldiers when used in what is called SERE training. I can only imagine how delighted our enemies are to learn how to gain secrets from our soldiers. However, I am sure our enemies will not have the same safeguards, medical and otherwise, in place when they conduct interrogations on our men and women in uniform who might be captured.

While giving transparency to al-Qaida and our other enemies, the release of these memos will deprive this administration and all future Presidents from receiving candid advice from Justice Department lawyers.

The Office of Legal Counsel is supposed to provide the President and the executive branch with thorough and frank legal analysis on a variety of topics. If these talented attorneys have to worry that their confidential and often classified legal advice is going to be released to the public and could result in their prosecution, I guarantee you they will not be able to offer the most straightforward opinions and alternative legal analysis necessary to guide policy. Instead, policy will now guide these lawyers' advice.

Finally, it is disingenuous for Members of Congress to say they were unaware of the CIA program. From its inception, CIA lawyers repeatedly obtained legal guidance regarding the program from the Department of Justice, as one can see from the four classified memos released and from other unclassified memos previously released. The CIA briefed congressional leaders early on about the details of the program and the specific interrogation techniques that could be used.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I was aware that the CIA was holding high-valued detainees and was gaining extraordinary insight into al-Qaida's structure and operations. Also, information about the program was leaked to the public and press. Reports about it started to circulate as early as 2005. Yet Congress continued to fund the program for several years afterward.

In fact, as the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee noted, the fiscal year 2007 intelligence authorization bill included language which specifically acknowledged that the CIA's program had been important in collecting valuable intelligence on al-Qaida operatives and associates and on planned terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies.

This bill was voted out of the Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously by a 15-to-0 rollcall vote. I hope that in the future this administration places more emphasis on protecting our national security rather than on placating critics of the rules the United States used to prevent another attack on our domestic soil.

Madam President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. I am sorry, I did not see the Senator from South Carolina. I do not suggest a quorum call.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Carolina.

AMENDMENT NO. 1026

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