Obama Not Backing Down from CIA 'Witch Hunt'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now, President Obama is sticking by his attorney general. Last week, seven former directors of central intelligence and the CIA wrote a letter to the president, urging him to stop an investigation by Attorney General Eric Holder into CIA interrogations. Now, the president is saying no to the seven former CIA directors. He says the investigation -- that they will go forward, and that has some up in arms.

Republican congressman Pete Hoekstra says the probe is a witch hunt. He joins us live. Congressman Hoekstra is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, the president's not backing down. He is backing his attorney general. A witch hunt?

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA, R - MICH.: Yes, I think so. Absolutely. I mean, this clearly is an attempt to go after and settle a political score. And what the president is doing, he's catering to the left wing of his party. These individuals within the CIA, they were investigated by their own agency. They investigated by the Justice Department four years ago. One of them was prosecuted. A number of them were held accountable administratively. There is no reason to go back over this ground.

And that's why seven directors of the -- former directors of the CIA - - Greta, that is unprecedented that you would get former directors of the CIA, who served Republican and Democrat presidents, that would make such a unified statement to the current president, saying this is wrong.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would happen, though -- I'm trying to look at it from the other side. Suppose the president said, Oh, I got seven letters from these directors -- and obviously, you know, they had -- they have interests because of their former positions, but that he -- that he went to his attorney general and said, OK, you can't do that. So now his attorney general has lost any sort of independence, that he's that weak, that he sort of complies with the president. Would that be a bad thing or a good thing?

HOEKSTRA: There is an element to that. Clearly, the president should have sent the signal to the attorney general a few months ago that said, We're not going to go down that path. He tried to send that signal, I think, when he said, I want to look forward, I don't want to look back. Obviously, Eric Holder didn't get the message.

But the bottom line is it's still the right thing to do to stop this investigation. These seven directors point out that not only is this a cause of concern for the intelligence that these folks are gathering today and what it does to the morale within the CIA, but that this also has an impact on our relationships with foreign governments and their willingness to work together. The bottom line is, Greta, we are still at war. We need a vibrant CIA and we need strong relationships with our intelligence partners. This jeopardizes both of those things.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a way to know whether the president's decision to let the investigations go forward and let his attorney general make the decision -- is there a way for us to know whether or not he made it because he thought it was the best judgment or whether he made it for political reasons to keep certain people within his party happy?

HOEKSTRA: No, I mean, I think -- you know, we can't determine that. We can't read into the president's -- we can read into the president's mind, maybe, you know, put our own observations and our own values onto that, but only the president knows exactly why he's doing this and why he's letting it move forward. I think, again, with these seven former directors of the CIA, what the president's doing, along with other decisions, he is jeopardizing our national security.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are there any Democratic congressmen that you -- or congresswomen that you've come in contact with since the letter was signed by the seven who have come up to you and said, Congressman Hoekstra, you're wrong, the president's right on this?

HOEKSTRA: I heard some of my colleagues. They've been on the networks. They've been talking about some of these issues. They're supporting -- they're supporting the president, and we just -- on this issue, we happen to disagree. But again, these are some of the same individuals who have been out attacking the CIA. They have a different way of building a strong and effective intelligence community and -- than what I do.

I think at a certain point in time, after these folks have gone through this, that we need to recognize that they are taking some of the dirtiest jobs and the most riskiest jobs in America. They have kept us safe. We need to support them and stand by them after they have been cleared by a previous Justice Department. And we can't put them through this continuous jeopardy, where their careers and their actions are going to be judged ongoing from one administration to the next. It's just unfair to these individuals.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.

HOEKSTRA: Thanks, Greta. Always good to be with you.

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