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Congress will defy Justice Dept. on destroyed CIA tapes; Harman: 'We're in Constitutional crisis'
Mike Sheehan and David Edwards
Published: Sunday December 16, 2007

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Despite the Justice Department's objections, a Congressional panel will press ahead with its investigation into destroyed CIA interrogation tapes, according to a key Republican on the panel.

"I think we will issue subpoenas," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), the House Intelligence Committee's ranking Republican, on Fox News Sunday (video below). "And once these witness appear in front of the committee, then I think we'll have to make the decision as to whether we're going to provide them with immunity or not. But our investigation should move forward."

As RAW STORY reported earlier, the Justice Department has refused outright to hand over any information about interrogation tapes destroyed by the CIA two years ago.

"The CIA did not tell us about the existence of these tapes," Hoekstra argued. "They did not tell us that they were going to be destroyed. ... [T]here's a Constitutional responsibility for them to keep Congress informed and they have not and we need to hold them accountable."

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), a top Democrat on the panel, says, "I am worried. It smells like the cover-up of the cover-up. ... Congress does absolutely need to exercise its Constitutional responsibility. We're an independent branch of government and we can do this very well."

Of White House stonewalling on the investigation, Harman says, "We have a system of checks and balances and it's broken. We're in Constitutional crisis because of the arrogant view of some in this administration that they can decide what the policy is, write the legal opinions to justify that policy and be accountable to no one."

A transcript of the Congressmembers' appearance on Fox News Sunday follows the video.



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WALLACE: joining us now to discuss the controversy over those CIA interrogation tapes are two key members of Congress on intelligence matters. Republican Pete Hoekstra and Democrat Jane Harman, who comes to us from New York. Welcome back, both of you, to "Fox News Sunday."

HOEKSTRA: Thank you. Good to be here.

WALLACE: On Friday, the Justice Department moved to block Congressional investigations of the destruction of these CIA tapes saying that it would jeopardize its own probe. Congressman Hoekstra, does that mean your committee is going to stand down?

HOEKSTRA: No, I don't think so. We want to hold the community accountable for what's happened with these tapes. I think we will issue subpoenas. Once these witness appear in front of the committee, we'll have to make the decision whether to provide them with immunity or not but our investigation should move forward.

WALLACE: You're going to defy the letter you got from the Justice Department.

HOEKSTRA: I think so. Obviously, I need to talk with the chairman of the committee about that, but that directionally is where I'd like to go.

WALLACE: Why?

HOEKSTRA: Because I think it's important for Congress to hold this community accountable. This community did not tell -- the CIA did not tell us about the existence of these tapes. They did not tell us that they were going to be destroyed. They need -- there's a Constitutional responsibility for them to keep Congress informed and they have not and we need to hold them accountable. The parts of this investigation that are being handled by justice, that's a different issue, but we need to hold them accountable because they did not respond and they did not perform the way we expected them to.

WALLACE: Congresswoman Harman, are you confident that justice can investigate this matter, espeCIAlly given the fact that justice provided some advice over the course of these years to the CIA offiCIAls themselves, or would you like to see an independent prosecutor?

HARMAN: Well, I'd like to see Congress do its job. I agree with Peter. Congress and the Justice Department have conducted parallel inquiries many times in the past. Recently we both were looking at leaks when I was ranking member on the intelligence committee. We're an independent branch of government and, oh, by the way, part of this is that Congress, specifically, i, warned them not to destroy the videotapes. I sent them a letter in 2003, and they did it anyway and they didn't tell us. So I am worried. It smells like the cover-up of the cover-up. I'm also worried about the CIA being the partner here, the inspector general of the CIA, I read a couple months ago, was being investigated by one of the counsel at the CIA. Congress does absolutely need to exercise its Constitutional responsibility. We're an independent branch of government and we can do this very well.

WALLACE: Congresswoman Harman, as you point out, you did back in 2003, when you became the ranking member, Democratic member of House intelligence, warn the CIA after you were informed about these tapes not to destroy them. Over the course of the last few days, CIA director Hayden has said the reason was because they wanted to protect the identities of the CIA interrogators on the tape from retaliation from terrorists if these tapes should ever leak out. Do you buy that explanation?

HARMAN: No, I don't. Why did they do the tapes in the first place? at least I don't know what the answer to that question is. But, secondly, the CIA's pretty good at keeping secrets. If there was a reason to do the tapes in the first place and if they were warned not just by me, but apparently by someone in the White House or others not to destroy them, espeCIAlly because in 2005, Congress, the courts and others were -- and the 9/11 commission were asking for evidence of this type, I can't imagine that that answer will hold up.

WALLACE: So let me ask you about that, Congresswoman Harman. Do you think that they were destroyed, these tapes were destroyed back in 2005 to obstruct the investigations and prosecutions that were going on at that time?

HARMAN: We don't know that. That's, again, why there has to be a fair investigation by Congress among others. I'm not ruling out an outside commission, but I don't think we need it now. I think Congress is very capable. If we run into problems, maybe we have to consider it. You heard Pete Hoekstra, on a bipartisan basis, the House intelligence committee wants to get into this and doesn't want to back down from the attorney general who may be doing something that won't give the public confidence that it was a full and fair investigation.

WALLACE: Congress man Hoekstra, Hayden appeared this week before your committee. Are you satisfied that over the years the CIA acted in good faith?

HOEKSTRA: No, I'm not. There are certain statements that might have been misleading to Congress as to exactly what existed. I think you've got a systemic problem here. I think the community is incomPetent. It is arrogant. And it has developed -- it's become political. This -- you know, you take a look at wmd in iraq. They were wrong. The two nies on iran. They were wrong. The whole fiasco with joe wilson. And now --

WALLACE: The valerie plame thing.

HOEKSTRA: It was handled terribly. And now the tapes. So you've got a community that's incomPetent. They are arrogant and they are political, and they don't believe that they are accountable to anybody. They don't believe that they're accountable to the president. They've clearly demonstrated through the tapes case that they don't believe they are accountable to Congress. And when we are at war, that is a terrible position for the intelligence community to be. If they had done what they are supposed to do on the tapes, keep us informed, listen to the kind of recommendations that my colleague Jane Harman made to them, we wouldn't even be having this discussion today. But because of their arrogance and their willingness to move independent, that's it.

WALLACE: I have to ask you to follow up, Congressman Hoekstra, do you have full confidence in director Hayden?

HOEKSTRA: I -- when you say that the community is incomPetent, I'm telling you I don't have confidence in the community. You know, I have high confidence that the community continues to be broken and is not giving us as policymakers the information that we need to make good decisions.

WALLACE: Let me just follow up. Including CIA director Hayden.

HOEKSTRA: I'm talking about the leadership in general. These are all the same people that have been there for the last five or six years. The only fresh blood in the community is Mike McConnell.

WALLACE: Director of national intelligence.

HOEKSTRA: Who is the director of national intelligence. And I think that we're going to hold Mike Hayden accountable because some of these misleading statements to Congress occurred on his watch.

HARMAN: this --

WALLACE: Congresswoman?

HARMAN: Yeah, I would distinguish the workforce of the community from the leadership of the community. Peter and I have been all over the world talking to very capable people who are on -- in austere locations, away from their families, trying to get it right and I frankly think that the recent nie on iran was the best work product they've produced. The leadership in my view becomes political and that's wrong. Remember, there was a purge going on in 2005 by porter goss as the CIA director and his top staff of people, members of the community that they thought were leaning Democratic. I think that that is outrageous. We need the best intelligence we can field. Then we need wise policymakers. That part has been broken for many years and we've all suvrtd from that.

WALLACE: At the heart of all this is the debate and the controversy over water boarding. The tapes reportedly show that this technique was used on two key al qaeda operatives, abu Zubaydah and abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri. And they say water boarding broke Zubaydah in just three minutes.

HARMAN: It allowed us to achieve the goal that saved american lives. Now enough time has passed that it's an unnecessary technique and shouldn't be used.

WALLACE: Was water boarding wrong? didn't it save lives? and to some degree, aren't we judging 2002 action from the luxury of 2007 hindsight?

HARMAN: Well, let's start with the fact that we do want interrogations to get the truth. My information is that extreme interrogations often do not get the truth. I buy John McCain's line. I think he has the most authenticity of any member of Congress on this subject. He says water boarding is torture and it doesn't work. I'm pleased that we're now moving the separate CIA program under the -- I hope we will do this -- the army field manual. I think for many reasons that Peter has said, the CIA has lost its credibility to run separate programs. And by the way, when we're talking about leadership, it is the White House that believes the Constitution starts with Article II, the power of the executive. It ignores Article I, the Congress, and Article III, the courts. We have a system of checks and balances and it's broken. We're in Constitutional crisis because of the arrogant view of some in this administration that they can decide what the policy is, write the legal opinions to justify that policy and be accountable to no one.

WALLACE: I have to ask you, Congressman Hoekstra, when you have a CIA member who says they broke al-Zubaydah in 35 seconds, and that this created intelligence that saved lives, was it so bad?

HOEKSTRA: I think we ought to lead in our toolbox of interrogation methods everything that is legal under the Constitution and under the law to make sure that we get the information that we need to keep america safe and the last thing we ought to do is telegraph to al qaeda or other terrorist organizations exactly what may happen if and when they are captured. I don't want to give them our playbook.

WALLACE: We have to leave it there. We want to thank you both for coming in today and talking with us.

HOEKSTRA: Thank you, Chris.

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