Hoekstra: Congress Knew

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning demonstrated a flip side for Democrats to investigating Bush-era interrogation policies, and perhaps a new GOP talking point on the issue: the notion that Congressional Democrats, despite their current opposition to torture and the legal memos that supported it, knew about those interrogation tactics as the Bush administration carried them out.

Hoekstra's main point--that Congress knew--raises a simple question: what do you mean by Congress? Did all Democrats know about interrogation policies, all Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, fewer than that, or more? To that end, Hoekstra has suggested that any investigation into torture must examine which members of Congress attended briefings on interrogation policies.

Consequently, such an investigation would have negative fallout for any Democrats who knew about and later opposed those policies. Without knowing who knew and who didn't, it's impossible to say what that fallout would be. And, perhaps more significantly, it's unclear as to how much input Hoekstra would have into how such an investigation would proceed (though John Conyers's proposal, for instance, mandates four of nine members of the investigative panel to be appointed by Republicans).

If torture and the investigation of it continue to be a hot issue, Hoekstra's argument could taint Democrats' political win. Insofar as torture is unpopular, arguing that Democrats sanctioned it is a powerful counter to their denunciations of Cheney and Bush.