American Morning

Tune in at 6am Eastern for all the news you need to start your day.
April 17th, 2009
10:23 AM ET

Fmr. Bush Adviser: Memo may hinder terror war

Frances Townsend speaks to CNN's John Roberts about newly-released torture memos.
Frances Townsend speaks to CNN's John Roberts about newly-released torture memos.

A Bush-era memo released by the White House Thursday revealed interrogation methods used by the Bush administration including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and forced nudity. Some of the methods Bush lawyers approved included keeping detainees naked, in diapers or in cramped confinement. Some former Bush officials say President Obama’s decision to declassify these memos is putting the country in danger.

Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security Adviser to President Bush, spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s American Morning Friday.

John Roberts: What is your take on the release of these memos? These were among the Bush administration's most closely-guarded secrets.

Fran Townsend: John, we should be clear with our viewers. Even during my time in the administration, I wasn't a part of the policy discussions but I will tell you here is my concern about the release of them. Regardless of what you think on the issue of whether or not waterboarding is torture, there were legal documents created and relied upon by career intelligence officials who then implemented the program. There were very strict controls on the program. These people relied on them and, now, to release them and to subject these people, these career professionals to a sort of public humiliation and opprobrium and then the potential of a congressional investigation really will make our intelligence community risk-averse.

I think that is what Mike Hayden, the former director of CIA, is getting at when he says “look you’re going to make us less safe.” I think there’s real potential in that. I think the administration needs to come out and tell us why did you release them? I think they made the right decision to say they are not going to prosecute intelligence officials and I think Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, made a very strong statement on that issue. But I will tell you, then why did you release them? What was the purpose? Because we've won legal cases in the courts to protect those memos up to now from public disclosure.

Read more: Bush-era interrogation memo: No torture without 'severe pain' intent

Roberts: Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, “The president has halted the use of the interrogation techniques described in these opinions, and this administration has made clear from day one that it will not condone torture. We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.” So this administration has promised greater transparency to the American people. These methods are no longer in use. Why not disclose them?

Townsend: I think it’s perfectly legitimate for this attorney general and this president to decide they’re not going to use this technique. But by disclosing them you've really handcuffed future administrations. And by the way, the president has appointed a group to look at the effectiveness and use of these techniques. And that group has not come out with their findings yet and it really does foreclose their ability to say they are effective. In this morning's "Wall Street Journal" there’s an op-ed by Director Hayden and former Attorney General Mukasey, that gives the example of how the use of techniques led to the ultimate capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And so there is an argument to be made that in limited circumstances these techniques can be effective in preventing terrorist attacks.

Roberts: According to this memo, the techniques included walling, which is pushing a person against a wall. It was intended to shock, more than anything. A facial slap, which was an insult slap, according to the memo. Cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box and waterboarding. You said you weren't a part of the policy development but were you aware of these techniques and were you concerned they might have crossed the legal line?

Townsend: To tell you John, I was not a part of either the legal discussion or the policy discussion. And the enumerated list of techniques that you've gone through was probably one of the most closely guarded secrets even within the administration. I was aware that there was a program and it was later on that I understood not simply what the techniques were but that there were medical personnel involved, that the techniques could only be approved by the Director of CIA.

Roberts: Were you concerned they might be illegal?

Townsend: I had never seen the legal memos just as most Americans had not seen them, I had never seen the legal reasoning. What I knew was OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] had issued an opinion finding… going through an analysis that held them to be legal.

Read the memos (PDF) 1
Read the memos (PDF) 2
Read the memos (PDF) 3
Read the memos (PDF) 4

Filed under: Controversy • Terrorism
soundoff (376 Responses)
  1. barbara zane

    Wake up people, They were beheading our guys!!!!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  2. Colin

    I find it very disturbing that our country is a physical, emotional, emotional and sexual abuser of people, many of whom are underage.
    Guess what that makes our country, that's right, a child abuser. Forced nudity is all part of that. Republicans believe that child abusers should have severe punishment. The minds that did this work are the minds of child abusers, not patriots – and need to be brought forth for examination and judgment so that they will not perpetrate these perversions any more. In essence these are sex crimes and needed to be treated as such. If we took any of the lawyers who decreed that these were OK, tied them to a wall and let dogs snap at their genitals we could probably get them to confess to 911 too.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  3. Anon

    If Demjanjuk is guilty for being a nazi guard who just followed orders then the CIA a-holes who did this are just as guilty. Prosecute the war criminals!!!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  4. Barbara Coloroso

    As Mr Gerkin said on CNN: Because we as a nation were scared after 9/11 it is okay to torture someone? The Young Turks convinced the population that the Armenians were a threat to the Ottoman Empire, thus the genocide of the Armenians was sanctioned; Hitler convinced the population that Jews were "vermin and bacteria eating at the fabric of our society" and the genocide of the Jews was sanctioned; Hutu Power convinced the population that Tutsi were "cockroaches that needed to be wiped out for the security and safety of Rwanda" and the genocide of the Tutsi was carried out in full view of the world; those on trial in Cambodia for crimes against humanity say they were only doing what they were told to do by their leaders. We as a country must demand that those who were instigators, planners, and perpetrators of torture be brought to justice, not merely exposed, less we "become the evil we deplore."
    Barbara Coloroso, author, Extraordinary Evil, A Short Walk to Genocide

    April 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  5. Walt Forest

    I'm amazed at the number of people who excuse torture on the grounds that it is an effective way to secure information that will keep 'us' safe. There is absolutely no evidence that torture works no credible evidence that actionable intelligence came from any of the torture sessions. The people doing the torture will always claim to have gained essential information – without that claim they are psychopaths and monsters. But it's essential that we as a society look closely at those claims. I worked four years for JTFGTMO. I know the quality of intelligence that came out of GTMO and I know that real life doesn't work like TV. For you folks that insist that torture works, let me spend a day with you, I'll have your signature on a piece of paper saying you're a founding member of Al Queda. That's the kind of 'actionable' intelligence that torture gets us. The FBI fought the CIA on this issue because they know what works to produce real actionable intelligence. Some cowboys in the CIA won the day because we had a few cowboys atop the Executive branch. I am a Patriot and a Conservative and I've worked in the service of this Country for 28 years. Torture is un-American and we live by the rule of law not the law of the jungle.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  6. Dan

    Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, “The president has halted the use of the interrogation techniques described in these opinions, and this administration has made clear from day one that it will not condone torture. We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.” SO THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS PROMISED GREATER TRANSPARENCY TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. These methods are no longer in use. Why not disclose them?

    Hey Holder,

    Where is the transparency when it comes to the details of the stimulus and bailout packages???? Although I agree some of these techniques were wrong and verging on torture, this was done for nothing but political gain and to make republicans look bad. Which sadly is pretty much all both parties want to do, make the other side look bad.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  7. Mid-West

    Thank goodness we have come to our senses. Next time we catch a terrorist lets be sure to buy him a cup of coffee light them a cigarette and play a round of golf with them. Perhaps then they will see the light and tell us everything they know. Oh, please get real.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  8. Jim

    @ Johnny DC,

    The fact of the matter is if terrorists really want to do harm to Americans, or anyone for that matter, they'll find a way. The best way to be as close to perfectly protected from terroists is for us to live in a completely militarized society were we are constantly under watch and 'protected' by military personnel. Maybe you are so deathly afraid of the "evil doers" that you're ok with giving up some of your freedoms in exchange for higher safety, but most people are not.

    And don't think for one second that what the Bush administration did after 9/11 to keep the country safe was the only way possible to keep us safe. If you seriously think that if anyone other than George W. Bush was in office after 9/11 that we would have had another attack gauranteed you are incredibly ignorant.

    Why don't you just go spend all your money on canned goods to stock your fallout shelter. And get the rest of the panic stricken right to do the same, your spending might help the economy more.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  9. NK, Lake Forest, CA

    "But by disclosing them you’ve really handcuffed future administrations."

    Exactly! That's the point. Future administrations SHOULD be handcuffed in this manner. The rule of law should always apply, no matter who's in charge. The problem was that they weren't prevented in the first place.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  10. ktb

    Brian, the problem with your comment is the assumption that the people we are capturing are terrorists. They are suspects, and no doubt some of them are faslely accused. So imagine for a moment – if you can – that you or a loved one is captured and totured, for no good reason. I mean, really try to imagine it – it is happening, it's realy, it won't go away. Now, don't you think that might be among the reasons so many people people hate us? (Or is it our freedoms? Freedom to illegally tortue people?) I suppose if you did try to imagine it, you might have imagined you were captured in some foreign country. but the other aspect of this is, why should our government be trusted with this kind of power. If you are paying attaention at all, the idea that they will use it only as they say is not to be taken seriously.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  11. Henry Miller

    I utterly fail to see how any of this qualifies as torture. Discomfort, sure. Humiliation, yeah, Was it the right thing for agents of the US to do? Definitely not. But it wasn't torture.

    Read a little about the practices of the Spanish Inquisition–I think you'll agree with me: that was torture. Making a guy run around naked doesn't even come close to that level of horror.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  12. Jay

    The Obama administration should focus on leading our country forward and stop the incessant campaigning. The Obama administration is the biggest group of "sore winners" in history. It appears that this admnistration is incapable of thinking about the long-term ramifications of its rehetoric and its actions OR it doesn't care. When are we going to elect a RESPONSIBLE administration? Ron Paul, where are you?

    April 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  13. Jon

    The country will be healed when Bush and all his cronies are in oragne suits in Gitmo. I will be first in line to to waterboard the whole bunch!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  14. Todd

    Personally, I think the biggest risk is that now the bad guys realize just how weak our interrogation techniques have been and how squeamish we are about even using those. A face slap is torture? PLEASE! Oh my God, an insect in my little cell! Never mind I've been told it can't hurt me, I'm now scarred for life! Grow up, people! We use these same techniques ON OUR OWN TROOPS to train and prepare them for the far worse techniques they will face if captured. Apparently you have all forgotten about the videos showing our enemies slowly behead people they capture using a knife. You think those people are going to talk because we're NICE to them when we catch them? I say, outsource interrogations to the Israelis if we can't handle it.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  15. Brent

    I don't see how releasing these memo's is hindering the war on terror. After all, I think most people involved on either side of this "war" would be aware of the types of techniques used in trrying to gain information. After all, haven't most of these techniques already been discussed in the news or shown it movies and TV shows?

    The truth about what the Bush administration did in our name is far more important than whatever tiny amount of new information regarding interrogation techniques was released.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  16. Tom B Buffalo, NY

    I remember as a child watching the serials on Saturday afternoon television and marveling in doe-eyed fascination when the announcer heralded Superman's defense of "Truth, Justice, and the American Way".

    What sets a righteous society apart from villainous ones is their adherence to the principles on which it was founded. For all those who believe that the previous administration's policy of allowing torture was defensible under the Machiavellian credo of "the ends justify the means", shame on you because that attitude flies in the face of American ingenuity and capability. If our tasks are made more difficult by adhering to our principles, so be it, we can remain proud and rest with a righteous conscience.

    The policies of the previous generation temporarily bankrupted our moral fortitude and tarnished the legacy of previous heroic generation of American citizens, soldiers and statesmen.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  17. Dave in Savannah

    The first thing that Townsend did in this interview was to issue a personal disclaimer. What does that tell you?

    April 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  18. richmond

    What possible good could come out of releasing these documents? I don't care what methods were used to torture as long as they provided results. The world is not all sunshine and hand holding and some measures have to be taken in order to protect our country. We are supposed to follow the Geneva Convention, but what our about enemies? You think Al Queda cares about rules as they are kidnapping, torturing and beheading all they kidnap which includes Americans and American soliders? How ignorant the lot of you sound crying about the Bush Administration and the violation of human rights when in fact there is a very real threat out there against us. I bet you are the same ones that scoff at law enforcment, but are the first ones to call them when you are in trouble.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  19. ktb

    Johhny DC, if you don't want your actions to come to light, then maybe you shouldn't do them. Releasing these documents IS a political move – it's telling the world that the US is going to acknowledge and correct it's criminial disregard for international law.

    The absurd part is how anyone can get from this that it undermines our secuirty. You know, many people in the word hate us FOR GOOD REASON, among them unjustified wars and torture.

    It's sad that people like you critize Obama for such a meager humaitarian gesture. It just goes to show you how the public has come to turn off any moral part of their brain regarding international politics. I know people are scared, but gestures like Obama's are disarming, whereas the right just seems to want to up the ante all the time.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  20. Deb

    to correct an error above...Bush's popularity was in 60-70% range in the early years, before the war on terrorists got too hard and too painful for most (wobbly-kneed) Americans.
    if waterboarding is such torture, then why do our Navy SEALS undergo it? does anything on the list equate with dull saber beheadings or strapping bombs on retarded folks? according to the Geneva Convention, enemy combantants without uniforms, hiding amongst civilians, can be shot on sight..... so perhaps, that is the answer, not bring them in for useful information, to save lives???

    open your eyes, you sanctimonious hypocrites. we have these terrorists on the run, hiding in caves, and now you want to second-guess our guys out there on the line, "rough men who stand ready in the night to guard us against those who would do us harm." - George Orwell

    April 17, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  21. Mark

    This is a very dangerous action the current administration has done.

    If he had just condemed the actions of torture and said it will not be allowed under my administration that would be one thing. However, by releasing this information for transparency sake, he has just emboldened our enemies whether well intentioned or not and has jeopordized the lives of many americans serving in our intelligent offices and armed forces.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  22. Dan in Florida

    As a veteran, I was disgusted and scared for my fellow servicemembers when the Bush Administration so brazenly shunned the Geneva Convention. The GC was there to protect OUR people, too. I'm thankfully amazed that we haven't heard stories of U.S. POW's being treated hideously because of our precedent.

    Hopefully, President Obama's action will preserve that trend. For me, his restoration of the U.S. back on the moral high ground has also restored the degree of pride and faith in my government that Bush had eroded.

    I believe God loves all of his people, but it feels nice to inch back into His good graces again.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  23. pete

    Displacement is a classic defense mechanism which has been used in the past by the Bush Administration. Releasing the interegation techniques did not make us less safe. Igonoring the Geneva convention treaty (which we signed) did make us less safe. Invading Iraq made us less safe by destablizing the region, while N Korea and Iran became stronger. Bush outed Valerie Plaine as a retalitory measure against her husband, who wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times accurately contridicting the Admin's claim Iraq was buying tubes from Niger. If you remember, Mrs. Paine was in an undercover operation to determine if Iran was developing WMD. So why did the Bush admin out her? They were threatened if people exercised thier freedom of speech if it was against thier administration. Now they claim Obama has made us less safe? This, like the eight years of the Bush disaster, is a joke

    April 17, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  24. Jeremiah, Minneapolis

    "Decision ties the hands of future Administrations." What is that supposed to mean? That the fact that future administrations can't torture is going to make us less safe? TORTURE IS ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, AND FLAT OUT WRONG!!! I don't understand what some people are thinking by defending these crimes.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  25. Andy

    What is wrong with you people and whose side are you on? You know we are talking about people who have murdered Americans right? They get slapped around a little, so what. That may have saved my life or yours. I don't even know any of you who are posting on this page but I would gladly have terrorists "tortured" if it saved one of you.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  26. Craig inTexas

    Eric, you're wrong. Most experts agree that information gotten from torture is decidedly not useful because the torturee will say or do almost anything to make it stop. Including lying and telling the torturer exactly what they want ot hear. Ask John McCain what he thinks about torture.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  27. Rosa B

    No one should be -shocked- that this went on; people have suspected it for ages. Of course things happen behind closed doors that the public doesn't know about or wants to pretend they can't acknowledge.

    The same can be said of the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" that the Americans went searching for for years. Where are they, huh? Have any ever been found? Or was it just Bush's way of diverting attention from the fact that Osama had not (and could not) be found. Oh, and there's conveniently a lot of oil in Iraq and some family ties...

    This proof needed to come out into the open and I'm glad it has. How would Americans feel if the situation was reversed? What if you were detained on little evidence and they used waterboarding on you? On your son? On your mother? How would you feel?

    People are people. Of course there are bad/horrible/evil people in the world. But some of those torture methods are just inhumane.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  28. Brian

    BURNS – Respectfully, you are wrong.

    Secrecy and torture plays right into the hands of terrorists. It makes America isolated, divided, and morally confused. It makes America a much easier target.

    Honesty, openness, and the moral high-ground is what will make America great again, and it is what every terrorist fears.

    Put away the fear and the fear-mongering. Remember what Winston Churchill said...

    April 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  29. Johnathan

    Kinda takes the legs right out from under your Legacy Team's warped attempts to re-write history in your favor, huh, Mr. Bush?

    April 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  30. GDS

    When did we agree that America would be a country that tortures people? George Washington set the standard when he prohibited his troops from mistreating captured Hessians during the Revolutionary War. Since that time, America has been the gold standard in humane conduct and adherence to the rule of law.

    George W. Bush has shamed our nation and sullied our honor by resorting to the kinds of dirty, evil tactics used by cheap regimes run by dictators. These steps by the Obama administration are painful, but they start us on the long road back to reclaiming our honor and our dignity.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
  31. david

    I'm glad to see that if we capture a terrorist involved in sneaking a nuke or ther WMD into the U.S., we'll just get him an attorney and not torture him in any way to find out where the weapon is. It is better to let a city get nuked than to violate any terrorist's human rights. Just think how ashamed we'd be now if we'd captured a 911 hijacker on Sept. 1st and thru torture got him to confess to what was about to happen and saved 3000 lives. I'd rather everyone in NY die than for that to happen.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  32. Max in AL

    Johnny in DC has it right. The way this administration is acting, we might find out who really killed JFK. Just by them releasing the wrong classified document. It seems that rules are either being made on the fly, or existing ones merely ignored.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  33. Doug

    It really all comes down to this:

    Are these activities morally justifiable?

    If the answer to that question is no, then the American people have every right to know about it.

    If the answer to that question is yes, and that it is morally justifiable for us to torture our POW's, then it also morally justifiable for American POW's to be tortured by our enemies

    April 17, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  34. Lowell

    Regardless of whether or not these reports were released for political gain, the truth is vastly more important. Acknowledging what has gone on before and making a point to amend our past transgressions is the obvious solution. For governments to instill trust in society in the present and future, it is vital to be transparent, even if a price is to be paid for past sins. It might seem cliche, but when it comes to public opinion, the truth shall set us free.

    Despite the possible repercussions , it is never a dark day when the truth is revealed. All societies and governments should embrace the evolution of human consciousness and come clean. If not, an even higher price shall be paid.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  35. Eric

    The fact that everything that the CIA and other intelligence organizations are trying to do to keep this country safe at televised is counter productive. Do you think we would be able to get the information that we need out of them if we did not use some torture? They will just give it up freely? Did you know that certain terrorist organizations place a frying pan on a stove until its hot then place it on a person private areas? For us to think that we can get sensitive information out of terrorists without using some form of torture is entirely unrealistic and just plain stupid.

    Los Angeles

    April 17, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  36. Ian

    "I think it’s perfectly legitimate for this attorney general and this president to decide they’re not going to use this technique. But by disclosing them you’ve really handcuffed future administrations."

    DUH!!! That's the whole POINT of having laws. Everybody has to obey the law, even the president, and even if the president is a Republican. If you want to argue that these techniques are legal, then revealing these memos shouldn't handcuff anybody. Keeping illegal acts secret does not make them legal!!!!!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  37. dg

    It is disturbing that someone would believe that because something is effective, it is okay. Under that theory, repeatedly raping someone's wife would be okay if it ended up preventing a terrorist attack. And, gee, if they are wrong and the person had no info about terrorist activities, well the person and their wife were just collateral damage. Townsend is no better than the terrorists we are fighting. After all, if blowing up innocent civilians is effective, then it is okay, right? That's Townsend's take anyway.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  38. Thomas

    I'm okay with them releasing these documents. I'm also okay with what the CIA and Bush administration did. These people are terrorists. Those that had evidence of 9/11 planning were subjected to the worst methods. None of these methods are life threatening and medical personnel is on hand just in case. It's more of a chance than they gave the innocent people in the towers, pentagon, and flight 93. Not to mention those killed abroad and in their home countries. Maybe this is what is wrong with America's youth. People are afraid to punish for wrong doings and it is showing. We've become soft as a nation and we need to make a statement that terrorism will not be tolerated. Doubtful a few months at a resort sipping margaritas is going to make these people give up information. I sleep better knowing America hasn't been attacked since. It's the one thing I have to applaud Bush for and that is tough to say. Peace out! Obama is doing a great job and did the right thing here. Transparancy is key.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  39. BURNS



    April 17, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  40. Kenny K

    Everyone forgets to ask the question, "Was it an amoral act to do this to these men?" And if you can answer yes to that, than you can't say it is outrageous that those same things can be done to American soldiers or U.S. citizens. An example would be the internment of the Japanese during World War II. Like it or not people were, in one form or another, tortured. SO, the question isn't was this torture? The real question we have to answer is was it moral justified? People forget that sometimes the ends don't justify the means.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  41. Johnathan

    Politicians on the right will make arguments not unlike the ones in this article. Right wingnuts will scream bloody murder, thinking that torture is OK.

    Bottom line is: The truth heals.

    If this news induces cardiac arrest on the Hannity's and Limbaughs out there, so be it.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  42. Marge

    Hey Ms Republican, were you not a member of the administration that sanctioned wonder you are now trying to defend it.....enough said.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  43. Mike

    People, get a grip. Do you really think terrorists are going to stop trying to kill Americans because we've released a few memos detailing what was done to gather critical intelligence? If you think this is torture, what happened to the folks who were in the WTC center on 9/11? I've seen videos of people jumping 100 floors to their death, and I'm sure countless others burned alive. And your complaining that we push the lowlifes who made this possible into a wall? Get real.

    Like a previous poster mentioned, the release of these memos does nothing but bash Republicans. There was absolutely nothing to gain from its release other than political capital. You Obamabots are being led by a sleazy, silver-tongued, professional politician, who'd much rather bash the previous adminstration for keeping us safe than take the true terrorist leaders of Venezuela, Iran, and NK to task. Job well done and hope you're not killed in our next terrorist attack!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  44. Chas

    If they are afraid of the truth, maybe the truth needs to be ahown.
    Decisions made under cloak and dagger harm this country and our moral foundations.
    The people who carried out the orders should be given grace. The people who made these decisions should stand up and be counted as the charges are brought.
    It's easy for a corrupt administration to hire a few corrupt lawyers to write an interpitation of a law you don't want to adhere to. The day will come that they will have to stand up as men and justify their actions in the open for all of us to hear. Either in our congressional format or in front of the world courts in the Hague.
    They are called war crimes you know.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  45. Doug

    @Johnny DC

    A dark day for America, eh?

    From a moral standpoint, President Obama absolutely had to release these memos. Regardless of whether or not they benefit Obama or the Democrats politically, these 'techniques' represent an ugly scar on the face of the United States and for the government to truly be transparent the American people had to know that the previous administration was sponsoring and condoning these activities.

    Just because it happens to benefit Obama politically doesn't mean it still wasn't the right thing to do. The American people have every right to know that the government of the last 8 years was actively taking part in torture of its POW's.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  46. Andy

    It is not that simple Angi. It all depends on who they are interrogating and what they may get from the interrogation. What if they had someone in custody who they knew carried out a terrorist attack in the U.S? And suppose we know he didn't do it alone, but was the only one we had in custody. He is not talking and not admitting anything. We use some of these techniques on him and he rats out some of his cohorts. We arrest and prosecute them. I think the end justifies the means in that case, especially if they were planning another attack and by stopping them American lives are saved. And your right Johnny, these memos were released for political gain. Obama is really not demonstrating "transparency" when talks about President Bush's policies and not his own.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  47. Travis

    The justification to use our might in the world is that we strike from a position of moral authority when combatting tyrrany.

    The very act of behaving as our enemies do would negate this authortity that justifies the use of violence against them. We must support the use of force to combat domestic and international threats, such as the pirates eliminated this week, but we must never abdicate our responsibility to use legally and ethically sound methods to do so.

    To fight our enemies, we must not become like them.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  48. Phil

    Wait a minute? Is it the release of a piece of paper that endangers the "war on terror" or is it more accurate to say that it is the PEOPLE who breathed life into the inanimate object (the memo) that causes danger?

    April 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  49. Luan Issufi

    What does she know?She is a part of this arrogant , incompetent
    and ignorant Bush's morons that destroyed this country.
    She should be a subject of this 'non torture" methods for what they have done!!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  50. Craig inTexas

    "Besides waterboarding, how is any of that “torture?” Are they kidding??"

    Johnny, two things for you to consider: 1.) Which of these techniques would be okay to use on your son or daughter if they were captured by the enemy? 2) The vast majority of the "enemy combatants" we captured turned out not to be Al Qaeda at all. Are any of these techniques okay to use on innocent people?
    Like most people, I could care less if true terrorists are tortured or executed once we're sure they really are terrorists. But our entire legal system is based on the protection of the innocent. We set that basic, core principle aside out of fear. I choose not to live in fear. Does that possibly make me less safe? Yes. Does that allow me to be proud of my country and able to sleep soundly at night. Hell yes!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  51. Babs

    Wait a minute, let's look at the big picture. Do any of you think that we haven't done this in the past? Come on, there are somethings we need to keep to our selves as a country. Do you think that other countries don't do the same? If not you are all delusional! Gee go to those somlian pirates, like they have this code of not harming anyone. Please remember these terrorist killed thousands of Americans they too should suffer, they are criminals and should be treated as so. Re-open Alcatraz let them live there, – no cell phones no TV no nothing PERIOD We have fed them and treated them more humanely than they would ever do to us or from their own if they would have stepped out of line.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  52. Michael

    I'm very disappointed in my president for not pursuing prosecution on this. The people involved in this need to be prosecuted and imprisoned. The fact that people are even discussing whether or not these methods constitute torture is frightening and a sad day for our country. The fact that they used these techniques on people who were later found to be completely innocent (such as the Canadian citizen Maher Arar who was sent by the US to Syria to be tortured) should land high ranking Bush-era officials in prison for years.
    These memos should be enough to sway public opinion that waterboarding is not just "a dunk in the water" just as crucifixion is really just a "stress position" – both techniques are quite effective at killing people.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm |

    War crimes, sheesh, so it's really true...... The Obama administration did right by allowing the public to view these docs.....all the Bush cronies are coming out the wood work to try and defend these torture tactics.....listen we signed a binding document at the Geneva Convention w/ other moral countries who all agreed to never this was exposed just as any other law broken, would expose the criminal..
    I do have pity on the ex-President..... I know he was trying to do the right thing..... However he let his feelings/emotions decieve, and cloud his judgement.....Being that Obama now knows the heavy pressure, the President carries, I know this is why he decided not to pursue this any longer.....He showed mercy.....

    April 17, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  54. joe

    So you liberals got your way.
    Our secrets are out.
    Now the terrorists know what to expect and how to train against it.
    And for what? WHAT exactly did this prove? Why was it SO important to declassify this? What benifit to YOU our OUR country does this provide? Nothing...absolutly nothing except making you feel good in your own personal contempt for 'Bush'.
    Thanks liberals, once again you've made us less safe.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  55. Kevin

    For anyone thinking that this is all about political gain for "the left"...
    the damage to ALL Americans was done on the day these memos were signed and the programs implemented.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  56. Rosslaw

    John Yoo's legal memorandum "created" to provide cover for the Bushies penchant for torture was unilaterally repudiated nine months later by the Justice Department as pure legal and logical trash. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was livid with the stupidity of the Bush torture program and the loss of intelligence it caused as opposed to non-torture interrogation techniques employed by the FBI. All of the military services and the Joint Chiefs of Staff likewise opposed the Bush torture program on the basis that it could deter enemy troops from willingly surrendering en masse to US troops with the knowledge they would be well treated-the massive surrender of Iraqi forces to US troops in the first Gulf Was is only one example. Just one more example of when the chickhawk's sleaze and incompetence is revealed they start screaming it supposedly endangers the countrry-baloney.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  57. Don Cooper

    "Regardless of whether or not you think waterboarding is torture"? The United States has signed international treaties that list waterboarding as torture. U.S. military personnel were prosecuted in earlier wars for waterboarding prisoners. Maybe some of the top former Bush administration officials, including Ms. Townsend, should be waterboarded and then they could give their assessment as to whether or not it is torture.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  58. John-boy

    Sunshine and ventilation is a good therapy for most disease. Make no mistake, the Bush administration was diseased, and this woman's perspective demonstrates how fatal to rational policy formation it actually was.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  59. Scott

    I am so saddened by what is happening to our country. I am a retired Marine/Naval officer. In the early 90's I went through 'survival evasion, resistance, escape' training known as SERE for the Navy. Later, the CIA developed it's interogation techniques from the SERE program. At SERE they taught us how to resist and survive torture. They used many of the techniques listed in this memo in order to train me. I was stuck in a dark cramped box for hours, put in pressure positions, deprived of sleep, doused with cold water, slapped in the face, forced to urinate and deficate into a folgers coffee can and then had to sit with that can in a very small cell (about 2.5 X 4 X 3) for hours at a time. I never got waterboarded but about 25% of us did. These activities weren't considered torture then. What happened? The answer is that for political gain, the left characterised everything that George W. Bush did as evil. Well, it wasn't evil when the Clinton administration was doing it to it's own military men and women. And in fact, it's not evil now. None of these techniques is torture. None of them caused any severe pain or threatened the lives of our military men or enemy combatants that we used them on. They're only considered torture now because the democrats had to use that word in order to achieve the greatest effect in their attacks on Bush. For all of you who are outraged by these techniques, I wish you could be aware of what you've done to our country with your pettiness. The next time we need information from a terrorist he will laugh in our faces. I know I would.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  60. David, Germantown, MD

    Fran Townsend says this release will make the intelligence community risk-averse. But I think the truth is it will make them torture-averse. This is a good thing.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  61. Michael

    You've got to be kidding me. No wonder America is viewed with such contempt by the rest of the civilized world. This nitwit is expressing the same defense used by many of the Nazi war criminals. To rely, without thinking, on a legal opinion that so clearly allows the torture of human beings for political purposes is more than shameful–it is criminal. This woman and her partners in crime should be sitting in jail rather than pandering to the press.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  62. Kevin

    If the Obama administration or any other legal authority is not going to prosecute the sick individuals who authorized torture in the name of the United States, they should at least slap a gag order on every single former member of the Bush administration.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  63. NC

    Maybe Barack will sit down and have tea with the terrorists. He figures he can ask them nicely , be their buddies, and they will tell us everything. Oh please Sheikh, be a buddy and tell me everything.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  64. bdn

    The creation of these "legal" documents threatens our very democracy. To use the power of the "law" to say that black is white and that light is dark is beyond Orwellian. It undermines the rule of law that our Consitution purports to protect. These memos needed to be shared so that we can all see how quickly our freedoms could be ripped from us.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  65. Michael Byrne

    These are war crimes under previously agreed treaties. The funny part is that the CIA never tortured because it is ineffective and leads to poor quality intelligence. Seeing the radical right defend the practice just shows how out of touch they are with the center. The radicals are being marginalized and their inability to come to grips with how badly they were whooped in Nov speaks volumes. Praying for Palin 2012!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  66. Robert

    This woman is shockingly ignorant.

    B. Thoman Cooper: I suppose you think that McCain would have been a better vote for you? Get real!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  67. Brian

    This is just what Obama promissed. So now the terrorists when captured, know that they will be clothed, sheltered, fed and NOT TORTURED. Wonderful !!! ( that was scarcasm, BTW) We are in big trouble ...

    April 17, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  68. Kate

    Johnny DC.

    Oh please. The Bush administration was the most secretive administration ever, topping Nixon's. Bush kept it secret because the government always had a stance against torture. Now just because the 'secret' is out, your whining. Why didn't you say something when the Bush administration was heading to a war in Iraq leading the American people to believe that Iraq had something to do with 9/11?

    Why didn't you whine when no WMD were found, despite the fact that propaganda was overwhelming with news reports of soldiers in gas masks going into Iraq.

    Obama is still scoring high in polls, a fact that can't be said about Bush during the same time-line.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  69. BobR

    Now our intelligence officers have to worry, not just about the enemy, but our own President "outting" them, after the fact, because of his own personal, not necessarily legal, opinions.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  70. Don

    These policies could have been changed without giving the details to the whole world.

    So now we have given Al Qaida a detailed list of things that interrogators were formerly authorized to do, but no longer are. Isn't the fear of the unknown – of what might happen – a critical tool for breaking down the resistance of a captive. How then are we to obtain information from terrorists?

    This will only insure that suspects are immediately turned over to the custody of governments that have no such qualms.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  71. Nix Winter

    Truth is the foundation of democracy and healing. We need to heal from the Bush Presidency.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  72. Austin Vogt

    Discussing whether the release of these memos weakened our security is a diversion from the real question of whether the approval or practice of these techniques weakened our security. It's a good strategy to define the questions in such a way that whether the torture itself was okay never even enters into the discussion.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  73. Johnny

    Besides waterboarding, how is any of that "torture?" Are they kidding??

    April 17, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  74. Vincent Petrosino

    President Obama does not need to do anything more. Just by releasing these memos, Congress and rights groups will take it from there. Fran Townsend is running scared and keeps defending herself, a sure sign of guilt. If you break Geneva Convention law, you must be tried. This disclosure makes the case for Madrid. Bush, Cheney and company are now in effect war criminals. Stay tuned. If we tried the Serbian crowd, we must bring Bush and Cheney up on charges too!

    April 17, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  75. Craig inTexas

    The lights have been switched on, and the roaches are running for cover. The only way we can restore our country to the moral high ground we've occupied through most of our history is by owning-up to our mistakes. And if by "handcuffing future presidents" she means making sure this never happens again, then she's right. Releasing the memos was the right thing to do.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  76. Bman

    Let the sunshine. There were many Nazi war criminals whose defense was I was only following orders. If the result of publishing this is to make a few career operatives likely to question baldly illegal, morally repugnant, and internationaly in violation of Geneva conventions directives, Fine let it be so. You can put labels like 'risk averse' or try to spin this however you want, but the fact of the matter is these memos illustrate exactly how in prosecuting our so called 'War on Terror' we became the terrorist and in so doing gave victory to our enemies. If some honest sunlight hits on some of these pestilential corners of our government it can only do us good.

    I for one am disapointed that President Obama has pledged not to prosecute these perpetrators up to the highest levels of government.
    But I'll take this as at least a step in the right direction.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  77. Brian

    I applaud the release of these memos. It is important for our country to be clear about who we are and what we stand for.

    Fear should never be an excuse for abhorent behavior. This release makes us stronger, not weaker. Stop the fear-mongering.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  78. Jon

    Townsend says, “But by disclosing them(the memos) you’ve really handcuffed future administrations. And by the way, the president has appointed a group to look at the effectiveness and use of these techniques. And that group has not come out with their findings yet and it really does foreclose their ability to say they are effective.”

    Yes, of course, they should handcuff future administrations from using torture. And as for the effectiveness, it has already been proven these techniques did nothing to prevent terror attacks around the world. As soon as the use of torture was ramped up, those prisoners who were already talking, started to feed their keepers dead-end information in order to stop the torture.

    All torture does is make a prisoner say whatever the captors want to hear as long as the inflicted pain stops.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  79. jennifer

    After reading the memo online...I'm so ashamed... this is not what my country is- nor what it stands for... This is what evil movie dictators do.
    When we sink to these kind of evils then we are no better than those that wronged us...

    April 17, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  80. jw az

    Johnny DC hit it on the head! Political gain at the cost of our country. When will America wake up...

    April 17, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  81. Bill

    Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security Adviser to President Bush, asks why did the Obama Administration declassify and release memos describing interrogation methods used by the Bush administration? What was the purpose? Bush officials say President Obama’s decision to declassify these memos is putting the country in danger

    The purpose is to assure the country and the world that the secretive and less than honorable ways of the Bush administration are over.

    There is no danger to our country created by releasing the memos; rather, the truth is exposing people in the Bush administration, including President Bush, who embrace the distorted idea that the way to protect honor and freedom is to embrace or suspend honor and freedom on a selective basis.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  82. Ben

    Everyone already knew it, but now it is official. This country was run by sadists and war criminals during the Bush administration. Under the Geneva Conventions, the US is legally obligated to investigate and prosecute the people behind these so-called legal justifications for torture. Hopefully I live to see the day that these amoral people wind up in jail.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  83. Bill

    anyone who supports keeping these memos secret or condones the barbaric behavior they 'legalized' should be subject to the very same conditions ... then render a new opinion

    would they then be willing to risk the same treatment to our brave soldiers in the future when we have to defend our freedoms in another war in another time ... we will pay for this toture in our lifetimes when our soldiers pay from retalitory tactics ... hopefully the victims will be children of people who blindly defend this horrendous behavior

    April 17, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  84. B. Thomas Cooper

    And yet, Obama, the coward, says he won't seek prosecutions. He won't get my vote again. I don't vote for people who let monsters run free.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  85. Bill, Bloominton IL

    Why is the left shocked by this? Political gain is all this is about. Maybe the democrats were too stoned in the 80s to understand Van Halens videa "Right Now" which says our country is doing things right now that we only think other countries do.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  86. Ian, Laurel, MD

    Say that this is a dark day, if you like , but this is only the first step, Johnny...

    The UN Convention Against Torture (signed by Reagan in 1988 and Ratified by the Senate in 1994) clearly spells out the responsibility of the United States with regard to allegations of and commission of Torture.

    So are we an honorable country of laws or are we as corrupt as the countries enumerated in the letters as using techniques that we condemn as torture but which were being justified in the same letters.

    Are we better than the Inquisition, the Nazis, the Viet Cong, the Khmer Rouge, and numerous other torturers or are we going to just sweep this under the rug and say that it was "necessary"?

    April 17, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  87. Ron

    The biggest concern over releasing these memos is revealing to the world what a pompous arrogant morraly bankrupt administration we had running the country. All of us living on this planet are human beings and we should all have the same inalliable rights. If we can't honor those rights for all people, then we aren't the morally superior nation we think we are.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  88. bob johnson

    That is just silly. The Bush Administration was all caught up into the 'Jack Bower is real' syndrome. The real life scenario was much different. Yes Al Queda is dangerous and yes there are people working to bring us harm, no question. The Bush Administration did more damage to the "terrorists" through the banking system then getting us into an unecessary war in Iraq and thumbing their noses at the Constitution of the USA.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  89. Mike

    Johnny in DC: Thank your lucky stars it was the Democrats instead of the Republicans. They impeached Clinton for lying about an affair, as though that constituted a breach of national security. If this was the Republicans they'd be prosecuting the Democrats.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  90. timothy o'neill

    OK i get it the president wants everything out in the open with the white house, as evident with the release of interrogation methods used by the last admin. then why don't we all recieve the details of how much money was given out in the bailouts and what rules the borrowers must follow and who is checking up to make sure the rules are followed. who in your admin had control of faney freddie mac. i get the feeling secrets from the last admin are percieved as bad and the current admin's secrets are needed.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  91. corwyn

    Johnny DC – "This is a dark, dark day for our country and a sign of things to come from this administration."

    Seriously, Johnny? Provinding transperacy into our country's past human rights violations equates to a "dark dark day for our country."

    Please go back to your tea bagging party and stop trying to rewrite history.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  92. Bman

    Noone cares. Real Americans do what's right, not cower in fear. Stow the talk about our safety. The fact of the matter is these practices were and are illegal, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and repugnant on all levels. If publishing them now makes Career operatives more likely to question wrong headed and misguided policy and you call that 'Risk Averse,' Fine. It's about time.

    There were quite a few Nazi war criminals whose justification for abhorrant atrocities was "I was only following orders."

    I think most of america has already woken up and smell the coffee, Now as sunlight shines into these pestilent corners we can hope the rest of us will wake up too.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  93. J -CT

    Notice how all the news in the U.S. is bad?

    April 17, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  94. Mike

    I'm troubled by secret legal documents that fundamentally change how the executive branch conducts the people's business. Debate the possibility of these things in public and then carry them out in private, fine. But the executive branch should never simply take it upon itself to redefine its role. I fear this as much as I fear the Taliban.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  95. Ian, Laurel, MD

    Of course she refused to say whether or not they were illegal... It's all that they have left. We, the American People, have been dishonored by those who represent us... The previous administration violated United States law and International Treaties to which the United States was party (and, if you even do a cursory read of the United States Constitution, the United States Government is required to act on treaties signed by the President and ratified by the Senate).

    This is only the first step of healing... The next part is going to be investigation and prosecution of those responsbile.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  96. Dr. G

    So this advisor says she " had never seen the legal memos" and that she "was not a part of either the legal discussion or the policy discussion."

    So why exactly do we care what she has to say?

    And the idea of an intelligance communty being "risk-adverse" is a contradiction in terms.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  97. Mike

    Just about everything this administration is trying to "Fix" is leading this country down more dangerous paths. We are on the verge of being led around the international world by Barak Obama's nose. These are fightening times, and I'm getting more and more scared.

    I think MAYBE he can fix our economy, but on the interantional front – we're on the verge of being over run by people who see his weakness and are ready to bull him and us over.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  98. Johnny DC

    Anybody who believes for a second that these reports weren't released for political gain is absurd. This is one of the more disgusting political moves I've ever witnessed. President Obama is clearly using this as an affront to Republicans – knowing full well that, in the process of the release, is contributing to the weakening of future security and encouraging terrorist support.

    This is a dark, dark day for our country and a sign of things to come from this administration.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  99. Melissa

    Regardless of what any Bush administration aids say, it was a good move. The Bush administration just doesn't like the fact that their dirty laundry is being aired and they're embarassed so they're behaving like whiny defensive children because of it.

    April 17, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  100. Angi in KC

    This concerns me: "[...]that there were medical personnel involved [...]."

    That means it's okay? They can be tortured nearly to the point of death, but because there are medical personnel there it's okay?!

    I'm floored by this woman's ignorance to this issue. The safety of the US is at risk? How? By coming clean to the world about what REALLY happened in the interrogations? By setting a new standard that torture will NOT be accepted?

    April 17, 2009 at 11:38 am |
1 2 3 4