President Obama says he wants to give America’s image abroad a facelift, but Republicans on Capitol Hill say they are worried it will come at the expense of national security.
The president over the past few days has warned that his country is losing its “moral bearings” and must deploy the “power of our values” to stay on the “better side of history.”
He cited these reasons in abolishing the interrogation tactics outlined in Bush-era memos declassified last week and opening the door for prosecutions against the lawyers who wrote those memos.
But top Republicans warn that Obama is placing America’s image abroad over its safety at home.
Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said former CIA chief Michael Hayden is right in saying that Obama’s treatment of the interrogation programs could have a chilling effect on agents’ ability to operate in the field.
“It lessens security,” Hoekstra told FOXNews.com. “If you’ve got an intelligence community that’s unwilling to take a risk and being very timid … guess what? You don’t have an intelligence community. You’ve got a bureaucracy.”
“Investigating lawyers who did their best to give advice on how the executive branch could protect innocent Americans in the wake of 9/11 will significantly undermine our ability to prevent future terrorist attacks,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Obama often talked during the campaign about how he wanted to restore America’s world standing, which had suffered under the Bush administration and as a result of the Iraq war.
Indeed, Obama is far more popular overseas than was Bush — and the new president has strived to rebuild relations with Europe and reach out his hand to Muslim nations, including those whose leaders are considered hostile to the United States.
Obama also cited a need to reclaim the “moral high ground” as he moved in January to close the controversial detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Hoekstra called the image campaign “shallow.” Regarding the interrogation program, he said Obama was on one hand claiming he wanted to put that chapter behind him while on the other hand opening the door for a months-long firestorm on Capitol Hill over the issue.
The value of the harsh interrogation programs, which some lawmakers say amounted to torture, is being debated anew following the release of four memos last week.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney told FOX News earlier this week that he’s asked for additional documents to be released to show the valuable information that was obtained through the interrogations.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair wrote a memo to employees in the wake of critical press reports saying “high value information” came from the interrogations. He urged Americans to place the CIA operations in perspective.