Hoekstra: Democrats will try to pass McDermott interrogation bill again

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Republicans stopped a provision that establishes criminal penalties for CIA officers that use cruel, inhuman or degrading interrogation methods from making it into the Intelligence bill passed Friday — but the leading Republican on the House intelligence committee said that provision is hardly dead.

“This is not the last time we’ll see the McDermott stuff,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra told The Daily Caller of the legislation authored by Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott. “It will come back. They will find every way that they can to make it law.”

Hoekstra said the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who “have such a distaste for the rank and file in the CIA,” will “use whatever tools at their disposal to find other ways to make this law.”

Hoekstra said he thinks Pelosi and Reyes, on the same day President Obama held his highly publicized health-care summit, “were hoping nobody would notice,” they were pushing the legislation through, trying to “sneak it through.”

Even several Democratic members, Hoekstra said, told him Thursday night when they realized the interrogation amendment made it into the intelligence bill that they had “no idea why the speaker and Reyes would put this in.”

The McDermott “Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment” amendment seeks to set punishment for agents who use illegal techniques. McDermott spokesman Ed Shelleby could not be reached for comment, but McDermott said in a statement that his amendment is “based on the Army Field Manual’s definition as acceptable and unacceptable interrogation tactics.”

“Brutal interrogations are not an effective tool to collect information, and what’s worse, they actually may produce unreliable information,” McDermott added.

Hoekstra said Pelosi and Reyes are “politically tone deaf to the concerns of career CIA and intelligence folks,” even though they say, “We support the CIA, we support the people on the field.”

“It’s kinda like no you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t put this crap in there,” Hoekstra said.

Neither representatives for Reyes nor Pelosi returned a request for comment.

Hoekstra said the McDermott bill is ambiguous, claiming that Democrats failed to explain the broad definition of what actually is illegal for CIA interrogators.

“Hey, can someone please explain to me, you know, what taking advantage of somebody’s phobia means?” Hoekstra said of one illegal interrogation technique in the legislation. “Can somebody please explain that to us? You know, can somebody please explain some of these other ambiguous terms to us? And what was the answer? Dull silence from their side. Nothing.”

“Then they fall back on the regular rhetoric and say, ‘You guys are just distorting what’s in here.’ No, we’re just kind of asking questions, and we’re asking you to explain it to us and you don’t seem to be able to,” he said of Democrats.

Hoekstra said he can see some problems with the legislation that stipulates that interrogators can’t do anything offensive to the suspect’s religion.

“If you’re a Muslim terrorist being interrogated by a woman who’s not veiled, maybe that’s offensive to their religion,” he said. “If you’re a Jew interrogating a Muslim terrorist, they may be offensive. Muslims do not see Christians and Jews as being their equivalent. They see them as being inferior. So being questioned by someone who is inferior may be offensive to them.”

“Then this whole thing about phobias,” he said. “Exploit their phobias. What in the world does that mean?”

Hoekstra also said interrogators have no desire, especially in this political environment, to cross any lines.

“You think they’re going to take a risk right now? No way. Even though we beat [the bill] last night … They’re not going to take any risks. They know where this administration is. They know this regime will throw them under the bus the first chance they get,” he said.

Of the Democrats on Intelligence committee, Hoekstra said he thinks a majority support the legislation, especially Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida.

Throughout the rest of the House, he said he’s unsure how many other Democrats support it but said he knows from Pelosi pulling the vote on Thursday that “there were at least enough of them [against it] that they knew they couldn’t pass it.”