FOX "Interview With Senator Lindsey Graham" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 14, 2009
Location: Unknown

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MR. SMITH: Continuing coverage now of the big news on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her accusations that the CIA and the Bush administration lied about the use of torture on detainees.

This has blown up in just a matter of a few hours here after Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi, excuse me, and Congress, said that Congress was misled about waterboarding and then said she knew about the use of that same technique more than six years ago.

For more, let's bring in Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. He serves on the Senate Armed Services and the Judiciary committees.

Senator, great to see you as always. Thank you.

SEN. GRAHAM: Thanks, Shep.

MR. SMITH: I guess its come down to what did she know and when did she know it and what do we about it?

SEN. GRAHAM: Stop digging is the message here. She's digging a big hole. Well, this is ridiculous, quite frankly, Jane Harman was briefed about interrogation techniques and wrote a letter in 2003, expressing concerns. So I think there's ample evidence that members of Congress were briefed and I, quite frankly, disagree with your last guest.

I've been a military lawyer for 25 years. I don't agree with the Bush administration's interpretation on the convention against torture statute, but it says in the law that to be torture, it has to be enduring mental or physical harm of a lasting nature. They interpreted the convention against torture to allow a place for waterboarding. I think that was a mistake, but they didn't commit a crime when they rendered that decision.

There are plenty of cases out there that talk about this subject matter; they're all over the board. We have new laws in place now that clearly would prevent such an abuse, but right after 9/11, they were trying to come up with interrogation techniques to defend this nation. They were not trying to commit a crime and I don't think they were unethical. I think they made some mistakes of judgment and the only reason we're talking about Nancy Pelosi, she wants it both ways. She wants to damn the Bush administration, but she doesn't want to take responsibility for what she was told. And if we're going to look into this thing, we're going to bring her to the forefront of it and we need to look forward, not backward.

I'm totally opposed to a truth commission. We're not going to put any more CIA agents in jeopardy. They were doing what they were told to do under the law and we need to move forward and the critics need to be held accountable for what they know.

If it is a crime, she was part of it.

MR. SMITH: If it is a crime, she was part of it, so she should be held responsible, as well as the others at whom she points fingers.

SEN. GRAHAM: You can't have it both ways. You can't come and tell me about techniques, number one, that ought to prove to anybody that they're not trying to commit a crime. If you were trying to commit a crime, would you go tell your political opponent about it?

MR. SMITH: Right. I hear you.

SEN. GRAHAM: They were trying to find ways to defend this nation while right after 9/11 thinking another attack was on the way.

MR. SMITH: Right. No doubt.

SEN. GRAHAM: This just really bothers me that somebody in a responsible position would have four different stories, trying to blame the past administration and won't accept responsibility for what she knew and when she knew it.

Let's move forward, put this behind us. We've got new laws in place and let's go forward and find out how to win this war within our value system.

MR. SMITH: I hear you, Senator. But you know there are a lot of people who are saying, this government is of me, it's by me and it's for me and if our government --

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah.

MR. SMITH: And if our government went too far on the advice of lawyers who were told, go too far, there are a lot of people who want to know about it and want to find out who was responsible and why, exactly, they did it. Everybody knows it was a tough time, but isn't it important to find out what we did in hopes that we don't repeat something like that? You say, quite rightly, that the laws are very specific now -- waterboarding is torture and the United States no longer does it. But there was a gray area.

SEN. GRAHAM: Right. But what we're doing is doing a political retro-look.

MR. SMITH: Right.

SEN. GRAHAM: This bipartisan commission -- we're going in a bipartisan fashion, looking into the body of lies of the Bush administration. This is about a political stunt, political revenge. It is not about understanding where we went wrong. I know where we went wrong; we've already had a hearing in the Armed Services Committee. The people driving this train have a political agenda and it's not to get to the truth, it's to try to second guess people who are making the best decisions they could right after this country was brought to its knees from a vicious attack and we haven't been attacked, but we did make some mistakes.

So, no, we're not looking back to be a better nation, we're looking back to play gotcha politics and I will reject that. I will work with this president and this Congress to move forward, to have new laws that protect us, but we're not helping our nation by looking back and second guessing people who are trying to defend the nation and did not commit a crime.

MR. SMITH: Lindsey Graham, thank you.

SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.