(CNSNews.com) – House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used on terror suspects--described in declassified Justice Department memos released by the Obama administration last week--had approval from congressional leaders in both parties.
Boehner also said that making the complete report public would show “the bigger picture” of how America was kept safe from terrorist attacks.
The memos that have been released reveal that only three top al Qaeda terror suspects, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), were ever waterboarded. Information obtained from KSM, according to one of the memos, allowed the U.S. government to stop a planned terrorist attack in Los Angeles.
“Yesterday, I saw a partial list of the number of members of the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, who were briefed on these interrogation methods,” Boehner said at a press conference at the Capitol on Thursday. “And not a word was raised at the time. Not one word. And I think you are going to hear more and more about the bigger picture here.
“If you look at the effort that was undertaken by our government after 9/11 in order to make America safe, and help keep America safe, it’s clear to me that it was done in a bi-partisan way,” Boehner said.
“And whether you’re talking about the terrorist surveillance program, whether you’re talking about interrogation techniques, whether you’re talking about the Treasury program to track this money – all of this information was downloaded to congressional leaders of both parties, with no objections being raised,” he added.
When asked by CNSNews.com if he agreed with former Vice President Dick Cheney’s call for declassification of the memos that detail the results and consequences derived from the intelligence gleaned from the CIA's "enhanced" interrogation techniques, Boehner said he did, but he also expressed concern that the decision to release any part of the report or memoranda could compromise future intelligence operations.
“Clearly, we received an awful lot of information as a result of how we dealt with certain of those detainees,” Boehner said. “It helped keep America safe.
“I’m concerned about the release of the memos,” Boehner said. “There are a number of issues. One is I think it provides a chilling effect on our intelligence officers all around the world. I think that is unfortunate. I don’t know how that can help keep America safe.
“Secondly, I think it only presents a small piece of the bigger story that should be released,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to hear an awful lot more about this in the coming weeks, but I’m hopeful that Americans will begin to understand there is a bigger story here about what happened--what was done to keep America safe.
“And the story isn’t a partisan one,” Boehner said. “All of the activities that our country was engaged in were dealt with on a bipartisan basis. So, I think you’ll begin to see more and more of that in the weeks to come.”
Cheney said on Fox News Channel’s “The Sean Hannity Show” on Sunday that the Obama administration should release the memos showing the results of the detainee debriefings.
“They didn't put out the memos that show the success of the effort, and there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity,” Cheney said. “They have not been declassified. I formally ask that they be declassified now.
“I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country,” Cheney said.
“And I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there, and the American people have the chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was, as well as to see this debate over the legal opinions,” he added.
As reported earlier by CNSNews.com, a May 30, 2005 memo released last week by the Obama administration provided some information about what was gained using “enhanced interrogation” techniques--including waterboarding--on top al Qaeda suspects.
“In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including KSM and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques,” reads the Justice Department memo.
“Both KSM and Zubaydah had ‘expressed their belief that the general US population was ‘weak,’ lacked resilience, and would be unable to ‘do what was necessary’ to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals.’ Indeed, before the CIA used enhanced techniques in its interrogation of KSM, KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, ‘Soon you will know,’” the memo added.
After he was subjected to the “waterboard” technique, KSM became cooperative, providing intelligence that led to the capture of key al Qaeda allies and, eventually, the closing down of an East Asian terrorist cell that had been tasked with carrying out the 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles.
The May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that details what happened in this regard was written by then-Principal Deputy Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury to John A. Rizzo, the senior deputy general counsel for the CIA.
“You have informed us that the interrogation of KSM—once enhanced techniques were employed—led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles,” says the memo.
“You have informed us that information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discover of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemaah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave,’” reads the memo.
“More specifically, we understand that KSM admitted that he had [redaction] large sum of money to an al Qaeda associate [redaction] … Khan subsequently identified the associate (Zubair), who was then captured. Zubair, in turn, provided information that led to the arrest of Hambali,” the memo read.
“The information acquired from these captures allowed CIA interrogators to pose more specific questions to KSM, which led the CIA to Hambali’s brother, al Hadi. Using information obtained from multiple sources, al-Hadi was captured, and he subsequently identified the Garuba cell. With the aid of this additional information, interrogations of Hambali confirmed much of what was learned from KSM,” the memo added.
A CIA spokesman confirmed to CNSNews.com on Tuesday that the CIA stands by the factual assertions made here.
In the memo itself, the Justice Department’s Bradbury told the CIA’s Rossi: “Your office has informed us that the CIA believes that ‘the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al Qa’ida has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.”
Boehner said he needed to take a deep breath before answering one reporter’s question concerning Americans’ right to “know what was being done in their name.”
“Let me take a deep breath here,” Boehner said under his breath before responding to the question. “We’re talking about terrorists who are hell bent on killing Americans. And 3,000 of our fellow citizens died. And there were techniques that were used by Americans, and our allies around the world, that helped keep America safe. I’m not going to allow our professionals and our allies around the world to get denigrated because they were working to keep our country safe.”
Boehner also posed a question for President Barack Obama.
“And so, at the end of the day, let’s go back to the overarching question today,” he said. “What is the Administration’s plan today to keep America safe? What is their plan to go after the terrorists? The world did not suddenly become safer in January 2009.”