Our Senators and Torture


I’ve been on a mission. Since the release of the torture memos in April, I have been trying to find out if my Senators and Congressman support the prosecution of torturers. (My efforts with Sen. Franken started the day after he was sworn in.)

Rep. Ellison was on the House Judiciary Committee until January, 2009, and both Senators are now on the Senate Judiciary Committee. So it seemed like an issue they probably would have a position on. I have emailed them all and made numerous phone calls.

My question was a no-brainer: Does the Senator/Congressman support the prosecution of torturers? Staffpersons at all three offices told me they were not aware of any position the Senator/Representative took on this issue, so they could not answer my question one way or the other. From Sen. Franken’s office, I also was told he was new on the job, so he didn’t have a position yet. I suggested the issue was not all that new, and it probably had come up at some point in his campaign. Nope.

So I tried to make the question even easier. Does the Senator/Congressman support the prosecution of bank robbers? of rapists? of white collar criminals? of people who sell drugs to children? To my surprise, the staff people were consistent. They were unaware of the Sen./Rep. having taken positions on any of those, so they couldn’t say one way or the other. On one call, one person in Sen. Franken’s office did go out on a limb and say he thinks the Senator would support the prosecution of bank robbers. I was making progress.

Eventually, I was given the name of a staffperson in Rep. Ellison’s office to email with my question. She responded by email as follows: “Congressman Ellison and our office do not support and are against the use of torture.”

Duh! I responded that of course he doesn’t. But the question is what do we do about it. And I repeated my original question about prosecutions. This elicited the following response: “Congressman Ellison, as a matter of principle, supports lawful prosecution of crimes and wrongdoings, including tortures.” I had finally hit pay dirt!

Thank you, Congressman Ellison.

No such luck with the Senators. Here is Sen. Klobuchar’s first and only response so far:

Dear Chuck:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the memoranda on torture that were released by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). I appreciate your input on this important subject.

As you know, in April 2009, the Justice Department released OLC memos that were drafted between 2002 and 2005. These memos authorized CIA and other U.S. intelligence personnel to use certain coercive techniques in the interrogation of terrorism suspects. I supported the release of these memos as an important step forward to restore America’s image and leadership in the world.

At the same time, I have supported President Obama’s recent executive order, which requires that all CIA interrogators follow only those interrogation techniques approved by the Army Field Manual. We need to strike the appropriate balance between protecting our security and reaffirming our values, and I believe the President is helping us do just that.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. One of the most important parts of my job is listening to what the people of Minnesota have to say to me. I am here in our nation’s capital to do the public’s business and to serve the people of our state. I hope you will contact me again about matters of concern to you.


Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

And my not so polite response:

Dear Amy,

If “one of the most important parts of [your] job is listening to what the people of Minnesota have to say to me,” you’re not doing well at all. My email to you talked about the failure to prosecute for war crimes, not about releasing memos or not committing war crimes in the future.

As Jonathan Turley has pointed out, waterboarding is no more a “coercive technique in the interrogation of terrorism suspects” than bank robbery is an aggressive technique in the withdrawal of money. DAMMIT, IT’S A CRIME!!

For heaven’s sake, you were a prosecutor. If one of your defendants had said, “Well, I needed ‘to strike the appropriate balance between protecting [my] security and reaffirming [my] values,'” you would have asked him or her what planet he or she was from. Nor would this have been a defense for those we’ve prosecuted for waterboarding.

You have implicated yourself in the cover-up of a war crime. It is becoming ever more obvious why Democrats no more than Republicans want to investigate and prosecute these alleged criminal offenses. I am ashamed of my country and of you.


Chuck Turchick

I have heard nothing from Sen. Klobuchar since that May 8, 2009, email to her.

As for Sen. Franken, his office has taken down my email address at least three times during my phone calls to his Washington office. So far, no response.

This is not a particularly difficult question I’m asking. Why do I feel like I’m pulling teeth?