A Question of Torture: Who Knew What and When?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 13, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Did the same people who now oppose waterboarding do nothing to stop its practice? And could classified CIA documents answer that question? Congressman Peter Hoekstra wants the CIA to release classified notes taken during a meeting when members of Congress were there, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and when they were briefed about harsh interrogation techniques. Congressman Hoekstra joins us live. Welcome, Congressman.

REP. PETER HOEKSTRA, R-MICHIGAN: Hey, good to be with you. Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Congressman, what documents do you want? I know they're classified, so to the extent that you can identify them -- I don't know if you know what exactly they are.

HOEKSTRA: Well, Greta, we know that over a period of -- you know, after 2002, members of Congress were briefed 40 separate times. For many of those meetings, there are memoranda to the file that were written by the CIA folks who were in those meetings, recapping exactly what happened in those meetings. For those meetings, where the file exists, the memoranda exist, I think those files ought to be declassified.

The American people ought to know what Congress knew and when they knew it, and they'll will recognize that not only did President Bush but Republican and Democratic leadership on the Hill supported the use of these enhanced interrogation techniques.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, some of the documents have been declassified. That's what sort of started this whole discussion recently, right?

HOEKSTRA: That's right. I mean, it was, I think, three weeks ago that the president released top secret what -- what were one time top secret documents from the Justice Department that outlined the legal ramifications, the legal justification for these enhanced interrogation techniques. What the president did he is selectively declassified documents. What I'm saying is, Make the complete record public. If there's a need for public debate, let's have it, but let's have it be a complete debate.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so you have contacted the director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, and asked for the declassification of the other memoranda from the 40 or so other meetings. Have you gotten a response from the CIA director about whether the documents from those meetings will be declassified or not?

HOEKSTRA: Well, we got a copy of a letter that was sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee last night, where the director of the CIA -- where Leon indicated that from the CIA's standpoint, these were still highly compartmentalized and top secret documents and that they could not be made available to the public. We're going to keep pushing on this, Greta. There's no reason, with all of the information that's already been made public, why this information can't be made public, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, "highly compartmentalized" -- what does that mean?

HOEKSTRA: I'm trying to figure it out myself. When you've released 146 pages of legal documentation, where we know how many times certain individuals were already waterboarded, this thing is no -- this program is no longer compartmentalized. America knows about it. Compartmentalization means, typically, that a very narrow group of people, a very narrow group of policy makers know about the program. This program is no longer compartmentalized. Everybody's aware of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama declassified some documents. Do you know the criteria that he used that suddenly makes these documents eligible to be classified? And can that identical criteria be applied to the other memoranda? I mean, why not release the other ones?

HOEKSTRA: Well, that's a question that we did send to the CIA when we were notified that they were considering releasing these documents -- these Justice Department documents. We said, What's the rationale? What's the justification? What criteria are you applying? Because you're absolutely right. We should apply those criteria to all of the documents in this case. We never got a response to that question. The documents, all of a sudden, became public.

But again, I think the important thing here -- it's selective declassification. And from my standpoint, Greta, you know, I think it's a political shot at the Bush administration. It was not about having a fair and open debate about the decisions that were made and the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and what was necessary to be done to keep America safe.

VAN SUSTEREN: I actually think -- you say it's a political problem. I actually see a bigger problem, and that's this, is that besides the fact that the president said that he's going to be transparent, but when you have sort of a mystery as to what's in those documents, if we're worried about endangering our troops, is that we're almost better off -- now that the documents have been released and the topic is out in the open, it's at least not look like we're trying to hide something so that people can sort of make things up around the world. We're much better off sort of saying, This is what it is, and we have nothing to hide. It hiding it makes it -- actually makes it more of a problem, I think, at this point, having released the original documents.

HOEKSTRA: I think that's right. I think the president should have made the decision initially, We're either going to release all of these documents or we're not going to release any of them. Releasing some of them puts the president -- puts America in a very awkward and indefensible position. I think you're exactly right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you going to give up or are you going to keep pushing this?

HOEKSTRA: Greta, I think people on Capitol Hill will tell you I'm a bulldog. I'm going to keep pushing on this. These documents will be made public. The only question is whether it's going to take three days, three weeks or three months. But they will be made public. They have to.

The American people are going to demand answers to these questions, to what I call the inconvenient truth, Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats knew about these programs. They supported these programs. They did the right thing to keep America safe. If they've now changed their mind, they should say so. But they need to be held accountable. They need to be held accountable before we hold attorneys at the Justice Department or before we hold frontline CIA folks who risk their lives each and every day, before they hold -- before we hold them accountable, let's hold Congress accountable. The decision making started with us.

VAN SUSTEREN: And worse is the other thing that I'm more worried about, sending a message to our enemy, where if we don't release everything, that they sort of create all sorts of -- say all sorts of things that may not be true. Anyway, Congressman, thank you.

HOEKSTRA: Hey, thank you.






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