The issue of detainee abuse and torture has tied more than one public official into rhetorical knots. Rep. Nancy Pelosi's continuing verbal gyrations regarding her knowledge of enhanced interrogation techniques is one example; press secretary Robert Gibbs explaining President Obama's decision to reverse policy and block the release of detainee photos is another.
But perhaps no one personifies the dilemma facing elected officials better than Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Even TPM's Josh Marshall has written glowingly of Graham in the past (and I quote):
Graham has become some mix of the star and the conscience of these proceedings because of his specialized knowledge as an Air Force JAG and his ability to see that this goes beyond partisan politics, threatening as it does not only America's honor but also her power.
I had a similar impression of Senator Graham's role during the Armed Services Committee hearings on interrogation this past summer. In those lame-duck days, the aim of Republicans up for election was to put as much distance as possible between themselves and George W. Bush. This group included not only Sen. Graham but his close friend, torture victim, and presidential candidate John McCain. Graham at that time was a passionate critic of the Bush Administration attorneys who provided the legal cover for American abuse of detainees.
Lately, however, Graham seems to have had second thoughts on the matter. At a recent Judiciary subcommittee hearing investigating detainee abuse, Graham spent his time mounting a feisty defense of torture memo authors Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury.
Graham's performance sent ANP producer Mike Fritz back to our archives to confirm that this was indeed the same Lindsey Graham we remembered from the summer, and sure enough, it was. As this video reveals, same guy - different message.Watch:
According to Prof. Rick Wilson, director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University's Washington College of Law, there is a definite contradiction emerging in Graham's thinking:
The Army Field Manual now clearly reflects U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions. The President's Executive Orders in January make clear that to go outside the Field Manual is to go outside of Common Article 3 of Geneva, which the Supreme Court has found to be binding on the nation.
As pressure builds for prosecutions, truth commissions, and an impeachment (Bybee), Sen. Graham appears to be abandoning the rhetoric of non-partisanship and high principals in favor of verbal attacks on those who question the arguments put forward by "enhanced interrogation" apologists.
All eyes are now on Attorney General Eric Holder as he prepares to release the results of an internal DOJ investigation on the Bush lawyers. Nearly five years in the works, the report by the Office of Professional Responsibility has been reported to contain a scathing rebuke of memo authors Bybee, Yoo, and Bradbury.
Release of the OPR report will no doubt inspire new hearings and new opportunities for Sen. Graham and others to debate among themselves - and within themselves - regarding interrogation, torture, and the integrity of the U.S. Constitution. No word yet on when the report will appear.