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CBS "Face The Nation" - Transcript


Location: Washington, DC

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MR. SCHIEFFER: Today on "Face the Nation," the question of torture: Does it work? Should it have been used on terror suspects after 9/11? Should the people who decided to use it be prosecuted now? These are the questions for two people on two very different sides, Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, and Democratic Senator Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Then we'll talk about the first 100 days of the Obama administration with reporter Bob Woodward of The Washington Post and Tina Brown, editor in chief of The Daily Beast. I'll have a final word on the story of a man and his dog. But first, questioning torture on "Face the Nation."


MR. SCHIEFFER: Good morning, again. And Senator McCain is in the studio with us. We begin with him.

Senator, when the president decided to put out these memos outlining the interrogation methods that the previous administration used, he apparently intended to put them out, say we'll never do it again and thought that would be the end of it. It has been far from that. He has really opened a can of worms. You were one of the first to condemn torture as a use for interrogators. You said it didn't work, it put our own people in jeopardy of having the enemy use it on them. You were very, very strong about that. But now you say we should not have an investigation into this, that we should move on. Why have you decided on that?

SEN. MCCAIN: First of all, let me repeat what you just said, Bob. I have opposed torture. It's a violation of the Geneva Conventions. I worry about treatment of Americans in future conflicts. But a very brief story. Senator Lindsey Graham and I were at Camp Buka, 20,000 Iraqis were held prisoner there. We met with a former high-ranking member of al Qaeda. I said to him, I said, how did you succeed? What is the recipe for your success?

He said two things, one, the chaos that existed after the initial invasion, there was no order whatsoever. He said, second, Abu Ghraib. He said, we were able to recruit thousands of young men into our cause because of Abu Ghraib. So have no doubt about my feeling about that.

And we did pass the detainee treatment act which prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. So we are where we are. There has been an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee. It is well-known what happened. There is going to be pictures that are going to be coming out, which will again authenticate that wrong things were done. But are you going to prosecute people for giving bad legal advice?

Are you going to keep on down this road in order, frankly, to -- maybe there's an element of settling old political scores here. We need to put this behind us. We need to move forward. We've made a commitment that we will never do this again. No administration, I believe, would ever do this again. And it's time to fight the wars that we're in. We're not done in Iraq by a long shot. And Afghanistan has very, very great difficulties. We need a united nation, not a divided one.

Finally, you were around when President Ford pardoned President Nixon. There were allegations of criminal activity on the part of the president of the United States. Most people, in retrospect, believe that the Ford pardon was right because we moved on. We've got to move on.

MR. SCHIEFFER: I guess the people on the other side would say, yes, but people are not going to believe we really mean that unless the people who did it are held accountable.

SEN. MCCAIN: I think, one, they've been held accountable in the court of public opinion. Second of all, these people were giving legal advice, the ones we're talking about now. The president has already said CIA operatives -- and by the way, morale over at the CIA is not at its highest right now. But the president said he wouldn't have any prosecution of CIA operatives. So who are we looking at? We're looking at people that gave the advice. It was bad advice. But if you're going to criminalize bad advice on the part of lawyers, how are you going to get people to serve, and what kind of a precedent does that set for the future?

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about this. Vice President Cheney says he wants more of these documents made public so the public will understand that these interrogation methods worked.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, as you know, the vice president and I strongly disagreed on the fundamentals of this issue. But the vice president of the United States has the right to weigh in on this discussion if he wants to. After all, it's the decisions that --

MR. SCHIEFFER: But do you agree with him?

SEN. MCCAIN: No, I don't think it's necessary, to be honest with you. But if the vice president feels it's necessary, then I think he's entitled. And when extreme talk show hosts say that he wants another attack on the United States, I think that's shameful.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about this. David Broder of The Washington Post said this morning in The Post that having vowed to end these things, President Obama should do all he can and use all the influence of his office to stop a retroactive search for scapegoats. Do you think Barack Obama should do more than he's already done?

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I wouldn't have released the memos because it obviously throws some gasoline on the fire.

MR. SCHIEFFER: I understand that.

SEN. MCCAIN: Yeah, I wish that the president -- he's going to address the nation after the first 100 days here. I wish he would repeat it to the American people. I think the American people, generally, once they have found out what happened, and they know, are ready to move forward as well.

MR. SCHIEFFER: The attorney general says he will not permit the criminalization of policy differences, which you're saying that's right. But he said, if I see wrongdoing -- and these are his words -- I will pursue that to the full extent of the law. What does that mean?

SEN. MCCAIN: I don't know because no one has alleged, quote, "wrongdoing." They have alleged that this advice was wrong and that somehow that these people who gave this advice should be subject to criminal prosecution. I don't agree with that, so I don't know what the attorney general is talking about.

MR. SCHIEFFER: So you wouldn't favor even appointing a special prosecutor to look into it.

SEN. MCCAIN: The allegations are that they gave the wrong counsel and that bad things were done and we violated fundamental commitments that the United States of America made when we signed the Geneva Conventions and we disregarded what might happen to Americans who are held captive in the future.

And by the way, those who say our enemies won't abide by the Geneva Conventions, they will if they know that there's going to be retribution for their violation of them.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about this quickly. Jay Bybee, who was one of the people at the Justice Department that wrote the memos that gave the CIA what they call the legal reasons to go ahead with all this, he's now a federal judge. We understand that he very much regrets, or at least he's told people he regrets, having written those memos. Do you think that he should be impeached? Or do you think that he should resign? Or do you think he should be left alone?

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, resignation would be a decision he would have to make on his own. But he falls into the same category as everybody else as far as giving very bad advice and misinterpreting fundamentally what the United States is all about, much less things like the Geneva Conventions. Under President Reagan, we signed an agreement against torture. We were in violation of that.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator McCain, always a pleasure to have you with us.

SEN. MCCAIN: Thanks, Bob. Thanks for having me on.

MR. SCHIEFFER: We'll be back in one minute to get some other views on this.


MR. SCHIEFFER: And with us now, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Pat Leahy of Vermont.

Well, Senator, you have said there ought to be some kind of a truth commission to look into all of this. President Obama says he's not for that. Senate Leader Harry Reid said he really doesn't have time for that. So are you rethinking that? Or do you still think that's what we ought to do?

SEN. LEAHY: No, I think we should do that, Bob. You know, every so often, I disagree with President Obama and Harry Reid. But they're also keeping an open mind, and I commend them both for that. My idea is instead of having eight or 10 separate committees in the House and Senate do little parts of it -- for example, in the Senate, we have the Intelligence Committee doing part of it, the Judiciary Committee which I chair does part of it, Armed Services does part, Homeland Security and so on -- why not have a nonpartisan or bipartisan commission do it, like we did in 9/11, and just go back and find everything that happened?

I know some people say, let's turn the page. Frankly, I'd like to read the page before we turn it. It is not for some idea of vengeance in doing this, but we know that there were a number of people that made the decision to violate the law, a number of people who said that we don't have to follow our Constitution, others who wrote memos basically saying the president and the vice president are above the laws, the laws of the United States don't apply to them, like they do to you and me. And I want to know why they did that, what kind of pressure inspired them to write things that are so off the wall and to make sure it never happens again. That's why I want it.

Now, we will get the answers to all this, but you can do it piecemeal or all together. Last week on a bill that I've had before the Senate, John McCain and others supported a commission to look at what happened in the financial meltdown. I agree with them on that. I voted for that amendment.

But just as important as losing our money, what happens when we lose our national honor? That's what we should look at?

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you about this part. I mean, is there anything else to know here?

SEN. LEAHY: Oh, yes. A lot is made of the fact that while we have the pictures from Abu Ghraib, we have the waterboard memos, we know that people did not tell the truth when they said, we weren't doing that, we know they weren't telling the truth when they said, well, you only had to waterboard once or twice and you got everything you needed. We know that's not the truth. But I want to know, who was it who made the decisions that we will violate our own laws, we'll violate our own treaties, we will even violate our own Constitution? That we don't know. We don't know what that chain of command was.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, is there the risk -- and you know the argument, we've been hearing it -- that we somehow criminalize our political system? I mean, you know, in banana republics, one group throws out the other group and they put them all in jail, and then they stay there until somebody else comes along and throws them in jail. Are we going down that kind of trail here?

SEN. LEAHY: I think not. And I've heard that talking point, usually by people who are afraid they may be looked at are the ones making that argument. But I'm not out for some kind of vengeance. Certainly, if you have people in the field who were told, here are the orders from the White House, here is a legal memo telling you what to do and how to do it, now, nobody is going to prosecute them. Although I would note that when FBI agents were there and they saw what was being done, when they reported back to headquarters, FBI Director Mueller said, no, you can't do that. That violates our own rules. That violates our understanding of the law. You have to step back, and they did. So there were some who knew that.

I want to know, who were the people in the Office of Legal Counsel, in the president's counsel's office, even in the Justice Department who knew this was against the law and still told people to go and break the law. I'm more concerned about those people than I am going after somebody in the field.

MR. SCHIEFFER: What about somebody in Congress? We know that the ranking members and the chairmen of the Intelligence Committees were apparently briefed on this. Apparently, Nancy Pelosi was briefed on this. Are you going to go after them?

SEN. LEAHY: That's not the party I'm going after, but let me tell you this. The commission can look at that. If you had a bipartisan commission or a nonpartisan commission, they'll look at all those questions, and they'll look at the transcripts of what was said. As you know, there is a great deal of dispute as to what extent they were briefed. And the difficult thing of this, if you're in these briefings is you can't talk about what's in the briefing.

MR. SCHIEFFER: So should you release all of that?

SEN. LEAHY: Well, why not? I mean, so much of this stuff has been in the public domain now anyway. As Senator McCain said, one of the best tools in getting people to join al Qaeda was showing the pictures of Americans torturing people at Abu Ghraid. And as so many military have said, this didn't help us, it's not who we are. We shouldn't have been doing it. And I commend those people and our own military at the highest level who said it was a mistake.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, what about the suggestion that the vice president is now making that more of these things be released so the American people will have a better idea of the results that they got?

SEN. LEAHY: Well, you know, I find this very interesting considering the fact that the vice president didn't even want to admit that he was part of the three branches of government who was saying, when people were asking questions, we're kind of a fourth branch, and we don't have to answer. I'd be delighted if he wants to come up and talk about it under oath. I'd be delighted to have Vice President Cheney come up and talk about it.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Under oath.

SEN. LEAHY: Under oath.

MR. SCHIEFFER: But not if he refused to do it under oath.


MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, let me ask you this. Do you plan to hold hearings yourself in the Judiciary Committee?

SEN. LEAHY: We have held a number of hearings already in the Judiciary Committee. A lot of the initial parts of the legal memoranda came out because of the hearings we've held in the Judiciary Committee. And as you know, the Judiciary Committee brought about basically the firing of then-attorney general and several people at the top level of the Justice Department. We are now reviewing all these OLC memos, both in the redacted and unredacted part.

I'll continue to do it, but that's the problem, we're only part of it. The Intelligence Committee is part of it. Armed Services is part of it. We can spend the rest of the year each one of us doing little pieces. It's sort of like the blind committee that tried to describe an elephant. We should do it all.

MR. SCHIEFFER: But let me ask you this, and we're totally out of time, so a short answer. In your investigation, do you plan to try to get the vice president to come, or would you subpoena him? No?

SEN. LEAHY: No. I think I would -- no, I will not. We'll get all the information, and we don't need -- he can go on his talk shows and do a post-mortem thing. But no.



MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator, thank you so much. Back with a little roundtable in just a minute.

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