Hillary on Torture, Like Obama

Hillary Clinton just made public a letter she sent to the American Freedom Campaign affirming her opposition to the practice of torture.

"It should never be the policy of the United States to torture," Clinton writes in the letter.

Clinton had been the only Presidential candidate on the Democratic side not to have signed a pledge with the American Freedom Campaign to oppose torture. But with today's letter, (full text of which is after the jump) her campaign means to put her squarely in line with the other candidates on the issue.

Clinton's position on torture made news last month when she announced her opposition to all torture during a Sept. 26 debate. "As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy, period," she said. Clinton had previously told the Daily News, in October of 2006, that she would support narrow exceptions to the rule in a "ticking time bomb" scenario.

Barack Obama got out front on the tortue issue today, jumping on this morning's New York Times story revealing the Bush administration's apparent authorization of brutal torture techniques during interrogations of suspected terrorists.

On the radio show Morning Joe this morning, Obama said, “I think this administration basically viewed any tactic as acceptable, as long as it could spin it and keep it out of the public eye," he said. "And I think that we have got to do a thorough investigation on this and we have to have a clear policy, one that I think Republicans and Democrats can embrace. You know, John McCain and I disagree on a lot of things, but the one thing we agree on is that we cannot have a — we cannot tolerate a policy of torture in this country."

Here's what Obama said.

"I think this administration basically viewed any tactic as acceptable, as long as it could spin it and keep it out of the public eye," he said. "And I think that we have got to do a thorough investigation on this and we have to have a clear policy, one that I think Republicans and Democrats can embrace. You know, John McCain and I disagree on a lot of things, but the one thing we agree on is that we cannot have a — we cannot tolerate a policy of torture in this country."

He also released a statement.

“The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security. We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists, but torture is not a part of the answer – it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration's approach. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America's standing in the world, not how you strengthen it. It's time to tell the world that America rejects torture without exception or equivocation. It's time to stop telling the American people one thing in public while doing something else in the shadows. No more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning. When I am president America will once again be the country that stands up to these deplorable tactics. When I am president we won't work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution, we will be straight with the American people and true to our values."

And here is Clinton's letter.

October 4, 2007

Steve Fox

American Freedom Campaign

1320 18th Street NW, Fifth Floor

Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear Mr. Fox:

Thank you for your letter and for the opportunity to convey directly my views on these issues of great importance to our Nation.

I believe the most important strength of our country emanates from our values and our institutions of justice, as enshrined in our Constitution. Our values and institutions are not liabilities, as this administration wants Americans to believe. To the contrary, I believe our values – our belief in human dignity, the rule of law, and fundamental fairness – are our most important assets, and forfeiting them in the war against terrorism and extremism hands a victory to the enemy.

As we read today in The New York Times, however, the administration has continued to try to evade the law while claiming to abide by it, commissioning secret memos that turn the laws against torture and cruel treatment on their heads.

When I opposed the Military Commissions Act in 2006, I made my position clear: torture violates the fundamental rule of law and the institutions of justice, it does not bear reliable fruit in intelligence gathering, and it undermines our moral strength in a conflict that cannot be won solely with military might. It should never be the policy of the United States to torture.

My position has been reinforced and strengthened in recent months by a number of important events. In a December 2006 report commissioned by the Defense Intelligence Agency, a number of leading experts offered evidence that challenged the reliability of information obtained from coercive interrogation tactics.

In April 2007, I met personally with a group of retired Generals and Admirals, seasoned and experienced military officers with many years of experience among them, and they were unequivocal in their view that torture and other official cruelty have no place in U.S. policy. They also said that permitting torture does “grave damage to America’s moral authority and, by fueling jihadist recruitment, undermines our security.”

As I said in September, I could not agree more. Torture “cannot be American policy. Period.”

Similarly, we must uphold the most basic right of all people detained under government authority to challenge the reason for their detention. Our democracy is grounded in the conviction that courts must be able to check the arbitrary power of government over the individual. Denying habeas corpus to detainees in our custody undermines that principle and in doing so diminishes us all.

I also believe that the President must have the ability to pursue terrorists and defend our national security with the best technology at hand. But we have existing law that allows that — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The rule of law is not an obstacle, despite what some in the Executive Branch seem to believe. In fact, the rule of law facilitates our safety and security. That is why I voted against the President's wiretapping bill this past August.

To lead, our country must uphold its most fundamental rules and standards. The next president must not only possess a clear-eyed assessment of the terrorist threat, but must demonstrate the moral courage to face that threat without forsaking the values which set our Nation apart. I look forward to taking up that challenge as President.

Thank you for your important work on these issues.