A "furious" Rep. Peter King, the hawkish, maverick Long Island Republican, blasted a "disgraceful" Eric Holder for opening an investigation of CIA interrogators and chided his own party for what he described as a weak response to the move in an interview just now with POLITICO.
"It's bulls***. It's disgraceful. You wonder which side they're on," he said of the Attorney General's move, which he described as a "declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense."
"It's a total breach of faith, and either the president is intentionally caving to the left wing of his party or he's lost control of his administration," said King, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security and a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
King, channeling both the sense of outrage and of political opportunity felt in parts of the GOP, defended in detail the interrogation practices -- threats to kill a detainee's family, and or to kill a detainee with a power drill -- detailed in a CIA inspector general report released yesterday.
"You're talking about threatening to kill a guy, threatening to attack his family, threatening to use an electric drill on him - but never doing it," King said. "You have that on the one hand - and on the other you have the [interrogator's] attempt to prevent thousands of Americans from being killed."
"When Holder was talking about being 'shocked' [before the report's release], I thought they were going to have cutting guys' fingers off or something - or that they actually used the power drill," he said.
Pressed on whether interrogators had actually broken the law, King said he didn't think the Geneva Convention "applies to terrorists," and that the line between permitted and outlawed interrogation policies in the Bush years was "a distinction without a difference."
"Why is it OK to waterboard someone, which causes physical pain, but not threaten someone and not cause pain?" he asked, warning of a "chilling" effect on future CIA behavior.
"You will have thousands of lives that will be lost and the blood will be on Eric Holder's hands," he said.
King faulted his own party leaders for an insufficient response to yesterday's announcement.
"They've declared war on the CIA. We should resist and fight back as hard as we can," he said. "It should be a scorched earth policy.... This isn't just another policy. This goes to the heart of our national defense. We should do whatever we have to do."