Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today. She’s appearing to testify on the administration’s foreign policy but earlier Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), a senior Republican on the committee, gave her an earful about torture prosecutions. Watch:
I’ve seen Guantanamo, my colleagues have. We know that they’re treated fairly. We haven’t been being unhumanitarian [sic] to these people. But we have used very strong techniques to extract information from them. And those techniques were cleared with the leadership of both the House and the Senate—they knew about them. And yet the President of the United States yesterday said that he was leaving it up to Attorney General Holder to see whether or not some of the people from the previous administration could be prosecuted for those activities…. To go to the CIA and say we might prosecute some of you or some of your leaders at the Justice Department that recommended these techniques is just, in my opinion, crazy…. I hope that the President of the United States and you madam secretary will re-evaluate the situation, and not be prosecuting people at the CIA or the Justice Department who were just doing their job to try to protect this country.
Leaving aside for the moment the answered question of whether Guantanamo detainees were treated inhumanely, Burton’s barking up the wrong tree here. Whether or not the administration green lights torture investigations and prosecutions is not the Secretary of State’s call to make. Burton seems shocked to find that Obama is “leaving it up to Attorney General Holder” to determine whether such a process moves forward but Holder is, in fact, the official whose job it is to make that determination.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.